Keep Milford teacher contract on negotiating table

We live in a state where the vast majority of local government decisions are made by town and school district meeting voters, but that doesn’t mean all decisions should be made that way.

And that is why we agree with the Milford School District Advisory Budget Committee, which opposes the School Board’s decision to hold a special school district meeting to solve a teacher contract negotiation stalemate.

The issue is a differential between what the district pays toward health insurance for current teachers and what it proposes to pay for new teachers. Currently, the district picks up 85 percent of the cost. With new teachers, it would like to pick up 80 percent. Teachers oppose that because, they say, setting up a differential between people performing the same jobs isn’t fair.

The Budget Committee wants that issue decided through negotiations, rather than having townspeople vote upon it. We agree. We think this is clearly an area for negotiation, for discussion between parties that are directly involved.

Here is our problem with bringing this to a special meeting vote, which will happen on primary day, Sept. 9:

Turnout will be light and those who turn out won’t necessarily be seeing the issue clearly. We’d be surprised, for instance, if teachers who live in Milford would vote against their interests. We’d be equally surprised if there weren’t some, perhaps many, taxpayers who vote purely on an economic basis.

Let’s face it, we all have agendas when we enter a voting booth and in a time when some of us are still not recovered from the economic collapse of 2008, we would be forgiven if we were to vote our pocketbooks rather than on the basis of … well, of anything else.

No, keep this issue on the negotiating table as the Budget Committee is asking the superior court to do.

That said, we were concerned to see a remark from the Budget Committee chairman in last week’s Cabinet in which he said the committee was seeking more “concessions” from teachers.

We see this as a way of downgrading the importance of teachers. We don’t think the Budget Committee means it that way; the committee, after all, is charged with looking after the fiscal well-being of Milford. But it seems to us that sometimes teachers don’t always get the respect they deserve.

Who, after all, is as important in the lives of our children as teachers? We are, of course, but after us? Teachers.

We don’t think the Budget Committee means to be disrespectful of their role, but it could come across that way.

And that would be a pity.