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Niskayuna schools played more than fair with bus drivers

Thursday, June 20, 2013
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Niskayuna schools played more than fair with bus drivers

After the May 21 budget defeat, Niskayuna school leaders met to consider additional spending cuts for the June 18 vote. One of the reductions was outsourcing of school bus drivers, which officials had been contemplating for 18 months. This process included more than a year of active negotiations with the employee bargaining unit that includes bus drivers. The unit’s last contract expired June 30.

The district is operating in a challenging economic climate requiring spending [cuts] from an already-tight budget [so as] to focus on sustaining academic programs and other services for students. Officials reviewed the potential to subcontract in several areas ... bus drivers emerged as the one area where it could realize significant budget savings and ensure continued employment for current employees.

District leaders decided that any contract would [require] current Niskayuna drivers to continue driving [district] bus routes. Outsourcing in other areas would not [allow] current employees to continue to have work, which was important to district leaders.

During the 12 months of negotiations, the district made several contract offers to the employee unit, including proposals that did not include outsourcing and those that did. At no point did the district initiate an offer that included a salary reduction for drivers. The district’s proposals that did include outsourcing also carried provisions designed to mitigate the economic impact of such a decision on drivers.

After 12 months of negotiations, the two sides jointly declared impasse. Two subsequent mediation sessions did not produce an agreement. When the budget was defeated in May, district leaders, compelled by economic necessity, made the decision to outsource.

After the decision in late May, the bargaining unit contacted the district and asked to return to the negotiating table. A tentative agreement that resulted from those negotiating sessions has gotten some attention in the community, however not all of the information that has been shared is accurate. In an effort to allow drivers to maintain employment with the district, rather than an outside carrier, the unit proposed a salary reduction for those drivers. This proposal was initiated by unit leaders, not by the district. The district was agreeable to this alternative method to secure equivalent savings, unfortunately the agreement was defeated by a vote of the unit’s membership.

At this point, the district is proceeding to subcontract for bus drivers. The employee unit has filed notice that it [will] file a legal challenge.

While the district is not going to argue the legal merits of this case publicly, it recognizes that parents and taxpayers have questions about outsourcing. The district has posted a “Q&A” about outsourcing on its website, www.niskayunaschools.org.

Our bus drivers perform a valuable service. We appreciate them and hope they are the same people driving students with the new carrier. Our goal throughout this process was to continue to find ways to focus limited resources on classroom instruction; ensure that children have safe and reliable transportation to school; and continue to provide employment for a group of people who are valued members of our community.

Susan Kay Salvaggio

Niskayuna

The writer is the school district superintendent.

America needs rule of law for its very survival

Granting amnesty to illegal aliens represents a grave threat to rule of law in this country and therefore endangers the country itself. Liberals scoff at such arguments, but shouldn’t.

Would anybody start a business without knowing that the law will recognize their rights to it, and persecute any who try to steal from it? Would anybody build a house without that same assurance? Would anybody walk down the street if they didn’t know the law would go after any who might try to harm you? Rule of law creates the predictability necessary for a complex and prosperous civilization to exist. It is critically important.

Consider Mexico and the United States. Both have vast resources, dynamic cultures, strong work ethics and representative government. Yet America has succeeded beyond measure due to the consistent enforcement of rule of law. Mexico, infamous for its corruption, lags behind and is mired in civil strife. The very thing most Mexican illegals want, economic prosperity, exists in American only — due to rule of law.

Ironically, by breaking the law to come here, they undermine what they desire most.

Of late, rule of law in America is under attack. We’ve seen the IRS [Internal Revenue Service] attack enemies of the Democratic Party, destroying our trust in government to do its job in an equal and unbiased manner. We’ve seen the First Amendment pushed by the administration’s wiretapping and harassment of journalists.

Word that government has monitored the phone and Internet activity of millions has pushed the Fourth Amendment to the periphery.

Rule of law is based on trust, and that trust is fast waning. Without trust that the law will be enforced equally, the bedrock of our society’s success will crumble. Rewarding illegal immigrants who broke our laws could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

David Welch

Scotia

Sch’dy schools already get more than fair share

School funding in New York state is a complex issue and the June 15 story (“State won’t fix flawed school aid formula so maybe the feds will”) on the state aid formula leaves the impression that Schenectady is being shortchanged by the state when, in fact, that is not the case.

Based on the state’s complex formulas, the numbers are correct; but you fail to tell the reader how much the state actually covers for specific districts. Schenectady schools receive over $9,700 per pupil from the state, which covers over 60 percent of the total budget required to run the district.

Compare this to other local districts: Burnt Hills receives 33 percent of its funds from state sources, covering around $6,000 per student; Niskayuna gets 23 percent of its funds from state sources, covering around $4,250 per student; and Guilderland is at 24 percent, and approximately $4,000 per student. The majority of the balance required for the budget comes from local taxpayers, and clearly, much more is asked of the suburban districts’ residents.

If Schenectady wins its lawsuit, the state will not miraculously find additional funding for school systems but will be forced to take even more from the suburbs. While I understand providing quality education for all students is a priority, Superintendent Laurence Spring is twisting the numbers when they are already in his favor.

Will Farmer

Burnt Hills

The writer is an unsuccessful BH-BL school board candidate.

Found phone translates into lost faith

To the gentleman who found my dropped cellphone on the bike path near Kiwanis Park: Thanks for calling and trying to scam me by posing as a state trooper.

Enjoy the phone! Hope you believe in karma!

Dwight Wilson

Glenville

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comments

June 20, 2013
6:06 a.m.
Phils2008 says...

Great letter David. The irony is that the Democrats are the ones that consistently obfuscate the law, ignore the law or outright break the law. They are the weak of society that laws most protect and yet they do not realize it. Without the first amendment they could not freely blather what they do. Without the second, they would be subjugated by simple force. Survival of the fittest would be the norm and weak kneed weak minded liberals would be gone. Without the rule of law they would soon find out
that the squeaky wheel no longer gets the grease.

June 20, 2013
7:27 a.m.
wmarincic says...

This immigration bill is about one thing..... Undocumented Democrats.....

June 20, 2013
10:40 p.m.
jjhehir says...

Well said, David Welch.

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