"It ain't the size that's in question here. It's the principle." These are the words spoken to Richard Dreyfuss, who grew up to be Mister Holland, by the leader of the Pharaohs in "American Graffiti." It is also the phrase that keeps rattling around in my head as I try to make sense of the Oakland School Board's decision to impose a contract on its teachers. The move, made on Wednesday night amidst a rather raucous and unhappy crowd of educators, was to keep things "status quo." After two years of negotiating, the decision came down from the top, or as top as it gets around here, to keep the lid on.
Cost cutting, don't you know. Like in January when the school board voted to give itself a raise. Admittedly this raise was from seven hundred and fifty dollars a month to seven hundred and eighty-five, but that works out that to a five percent raise. Cutting costs. Tony Smith, Oakland's newly-minted superintendent received a six percent raise to take his job here. Mister Smith makes substantially more than seven hundred and eighty-five dollars a month. The argument has been made on both accounts that it is important to pay quality people in order to retain them. Percentages can be tricky things, as most fifth grade teachers can tell you.
I am no apologist for my union, either. Walking into one of their meetings is a lot like walking into a story by Lewis Carroll. After two years of negotiation, this is the best we can come up with? Okay. I'll show up for the twice-rescheduled one day strike next week, but then I'm going to have to consider becoming a free agent.