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A welcome settlement for the schools

Nevada Appeal editorial board

Now that teachers and the Carson City School Board have reached a contract agreement, we can look back on the process and ask, “Did it have to be this difficult?”

We’re pleased to see the agreement, of course, especially because it covers two years and means they won’t have to go through the same trials and tribulations next school year.

We also think the compromise – a 2 percent raise at the beginning of next school year, and another 2 percent during the year – is reasonable one, given the relatively low scale of Carson’s teachers and the financial crunch for the district.

Maybe it took the better part of a year to reach middle ground. But it sure seems the name-calling, picketing and overheated meetings could have been avoided with some flexibility up front.

The negotiations were closed, so we don’t know exactly what went on. But the reports we’ve heard indicate the teachers and classified employees went in with a variety of proposals, and the district’s negotiator systematically slammed the door on them.

On the other hand, we weren’t particularly comfortable with the teachers’ proposal to include language in the contract that would automatically pass through whatever increase is approved by the Legislature. That’s why we elect a school board – to make decisions for the local district.

The teachers hammered on the issue of the 2 percent raise (from money approved by the Legislature), although they do get a 5 percent raise for each year they stay with the district. But 2 percent – or a lack thereof – does not help Carson City catch up with surrounding districts, let alone the parts of the country where teachers are in high demand.

Ultimately, we hope the lesson learned from the 2003-04 negotiations is not one of pushing until the last day to find a reasonable compromise. The ill will emanating from that approach was harmful to the community.

Instead, we hope they’ll go to the middle ground at the beginning of negotiations, knowing it’s where they will wind up anyway.