La Grande teachers have long shown a commitment to excellence. Now they have also shown a commitment to common sense by agreeing to take a pay cut in 2009-10. Their support of a one-year contract calls for them to work four fewer days, accept a salary freeze and also accept a freeze in money paid by the district for health insurance. The contract was ratified this week by the school board.
It’s sad that the pay cut was necessary. But with the La Grande School District still facing about $2 million in cuts, the fact is that it is just a small part in righting the budget ship.
We still believe that education is an investment in the future, and that an education investment now saves costs later. When times get better, when this recession finally gets done playing havoc with the economy, we need to rededicate ourselves to reversing the disinvestment in education. We need to make sure our youths have the best chance of preparing themselves for the challenges of tomorrow.
Like it or not, Oregon has a boom and bust economy. Now Oregon is in a bust cycle. The cycle won’t last forever. The sacrifices that employees make now will help the district get through a very serious budget crisis.
When budgets allow, however, we must once again commit ourselves to smaller class sizes, which will help us reach bigger educational goals for our students. The elimination of one elementary school teaching position (the cut was possible because of a retirement) may have been necessary in the short term, but the position should be reinstated as soon as the economy allows.
Sadly, students will lose four days of school if the contract is ratified. And students of course need to be our No. 1 priority when considering any spending decisions revolving around the school. A quality education for them equals economic opportunity later, and a safer, more civilized world for all of us.
Strong schools, as we’ve noted in this space before, attract business, and more business means more jobs. That’s a point to remember even now when we fight our way through one of the worse economic times since the Great Depression.
When the economy is better, we need to rededicate ourselves to strong schools. It means keeping at least some of our talent here rather than it all getting away to the bright lights and big cities.
The teachers should be commended for taking the common sense approach and voting for taking a cut in pay. In the long run, we will all be better off for their courageous decision.