2015-09-03 / Opinion

Enough is Enough

Twelve months is a long time for two parties to talk to each other about anything without coming to an agreement. For the Newport School Committee and the Teachers Association of Newport (TAN), that’s about 365 days, 52 weeks, or 8,760 hours to, potentially, have engaged in enough private palaver to bridge whatever differences remain.

Teachers did “start” work on Wednesday, Sept. 2, with a professional development day. Yet, many turned out first thing that morning for an “informational” picket line at Rogers High School.

And now the parties will trundle off to bring their arguments before an arbitrator. In the middle of all this, the teachers filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the State Labor Relations Board charging that the Newport School Committee’s “final” offer to the teachers hinged on the teachers union dropping two pending grievances.

Couldn’t both sides have worked a little harder a littler earlier to gain a settlement?

The contract that expired last August was a three-year pact. We’d like to see another three-year deal, if for no other reason than to give the city, the teachers and, most of all, school-age kids and their parents, a couple of years without this kind of grief.

We are thankful that state law prohibits teachers from going on strike. Of course, Rhode Island history is replete with stories of teachers defying the law and going to jail, if only for a short time. We can only hope that the lengthy negotiations have given both sides enough of what they need to clear the hurdles that remain.

Meanwhile, in neighboring Middletown, a three-year contract with teachers expired on Aug. 31. Without a new agreement, the School Committee unanimously approved a memorandum of understanding to extend the current teacher contract for six months. However, the word in Middletown was that the Town Council may not go along with that approach.

And if not, then what?

It’s time to turn away from 11th-hour showdowns and get teachers and students into the classroom where they both belong at this time of year.

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