Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Issues Blooming Like Spring Flowers

Yes, readers I dropped off the face of the earth again, but now I'm back. Here are a few of the things that kept me off the blogsphere:

First, discussions on educator and public employee benefits ended successfully with legislation, House Bill 81, incorporating the agreed upon changes. House Bill 81 passed the House with only 3 "no" votes out of 41 and passed the Senate with 20 "yes" votes and one absent. It will soon be signed into law by Governor Markell.

Senate Bill 34, the bill to give public employee unions representation on the State Employment Benefits Committee came out of committee in the Senate and will probably be on the floor of the Senate in early May.

SB 5 was filed which proposes the consolidation of the vocational technical school districts in Delaware. Currently all three counties have their own vo-tech district. The New Castle County vo-tech system has four schools, Kent and Sussex Counties both have one each, for a total of six schools. Proponents of the bill say that we should be able to administer six schools with less than three superintendents and three school boards. Opponents of the bill point out issues such as the individual missions and identities of the districts and the fact that the fiscal note shows a savings of only $65,000 after consolidation.
DSEA has expressed concerns regarding salary discrepancies between the three districts which would need to be "leveled up" to the highest salaries. Also, the bargaining rights of educators will have to be protected because the original certified bargaining units will no longer exist in a consolidation scenario. Finally, we raised the issue of evaluating the educational impact of consolidation particularly in the context of education reform.

Senate Joint Resolution 4 was filed by Senator Katz. This resolution forms a task force to look at consolidation of all 19 school districts, and then specifically excludes educators from being a part of the task force! This was filed the last day of session before the Spring Break. We will obviously be voicing opposition to this legislation when the lawmakers return.

It's school board election time! School board elections are Tuesday, May 10th. So, that means mailings, and phone banking, and all sorts of activity to get the best people elected to govern our schools.

These are a few of the things keeping me from blogging much.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Only in Delaware

Governor Jack Markell spoke today at the Delaware Chamber of Commerce luncheon. The event reminded me (as a transplant to Delaware)that the "Delaware way", truly is unique.

First, in other states it would not be likely that I as a Labor activist would attend a Chamber event. However, in Delaware, I and other Labor people were present at the event. Why? Because in Delaware, the Chamber is not obsessed with the destruction of Labor.

Second, the keynote speaker, Governor Markell, a pro-business, smaller government Democrat, gave a speech that was pro-union and pro-public employee. Governor Markell said that some other Governors speak of their public employees in a way that "makes me sick". He went on to explain that as businessmen they would not speak ill of their employees because they know that therein lay the value of their businesses. In the same way, Governors should not speak ill of their employees who teach kids, or do any number of other difficult jobs. The Governor went on to give praise to the state employee unions who just finished a challenging process of finding cost savings in their benefit plans. He singled out Jeff Taschner of DSEA for good work on the project. Additionally, Markell returned to one of his common themes, the need for good, forward-looking schools to make Delaware economically competitive.

In conclusion, and with my "only in Delaware" mindset firmly in place...Only in Delaware could an old Labor radical like me, go to a Chamber event, listen to a fiscally Conservative Democratic Governor, and go away truly believing that we have turned a corner with this same Governor and that we will be able to walk down the road with him to better times.