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Another Voice: BTF has made proposals that will benefit students

By Phil Rumore

A recent News editorial states, “After rejecting the district’s contract offer, the BTF must show it really wants a deal” and “The question now is if the BTF follows its programmatic rejection with a counterproposal.”

Had the editorial board checked, it would have found that the BTF did, over a week before the editorial, make a counterproposal to the district. Unlike the district, the BTF submitted proposals that would lower class sizes, with significant adjustments for students below grade level and our students speaking little English.

We also sought to lower the impossible caseloads for our school counselors, social workers, psychologists and attendance teachers to better support our students. We also reduced the amount we wanted mandated for supplies by over $12 million.

While the School Board rejected the recommendations of the independent fact-finder appointed by the state Public Employee Relations Board, the BTF accepted many recommendations.

We accepted the fact-finder’s report on salaries (with the addition of 2018-2019), increased co-pays for prescription and doctors visits and decreased workers’ compensation benefits.

We have also agreed to increased health care payments for retirees and a dollar amount health care payment for active members.

And yes, as we have from the start of negotiations, we agreed to drop the cosmetic surgery rider.

The report, issued after testimony and written submissions by both sides, acknowledged the great disparity in Buffalo teachers’ salaries, lifetime earnings and retirement payments. It also addressed the salary shortfalls in upper and lower teacher salaries.

While the BTF did not like the increases, we were willing to accept them. The board, however, insulted teachers by offering 10 percent over 12 years (less than 1 percent per year), with no retroactivity, while demanding the following:

Increase the work day by 9.8 percent, increase periods worked by 20 percent, increase the work year by 1 percent, increase after-school faculty meetings from 10 to unlimited, increase office visit co-pays, increase prescription co-pays, teacher payment for a doctor visit if sick before or after a holiday, new teachers pay 20 percent for health care (e.g. $3,739 family and $1,437 single), current teachers pay 10 percent for health care, increase retiree health care payments, eliminate the early retirement incentive and eliminate sick leave bank days contributed by teachers for use during long-term illnesses.

Therefore, unlike the School Board, the BTF not only has made counterproposals based upon a fact-finder’s report, but also unlike the board, the BTF has made proposals that will benefit our students.

Phil Rumore is president of the Buffalo Teachers Federation.