At this point, the No. 1 thing were looking for in contract talks between the state and the teachers union is movement, so Gov. Ben Cayetanos latest proposal is welcome even if its not quite up to the mark.
The two sides are in a 60-day cooling-off period that ends March 17, but theyre still talking. Thats good.
Cayetano continues to maintain (and it probably is true) that the state cannot afford all of the pay raises that public worker unions demand, deserve and claim theyre entitled to.
That said, its pretty clear that the public expects a meaningful pay hike for teachers this year, and the Legislature appears eager to deliver it.
Cayetanos latest offer involves a generous increase in starting salaries, plus higher pay for teachers in "shortage areas." As we say, its a helpful suggestion, but if the goal as Cayetano says is to end the states chronic shortage of teachers, it comes up seriously short.
The problem isnt just recruitment of new teachers - although thats a serious part of it. Retention of experienced teachers is the other part of it. For one thing, too many good teachers are opting to leave the state or change careers because theyve burned out their good intentions and decided its time for greater reward for their considerable talents.
In addition, a substantial cohort of teachers are nearing retirement age. Our suggestion that Cayetanos proposal falls short in addressing retention of experienced teachers is not quite the same, however, as the teachers unions demand for an across-the-board percentage pay increase. Management does have the right and responsibility to target pay raises where they will do the most good.