The unfortunate thing about the impending Decatur Public Schools' teaching assistants' strike is the depressing reality of the aftermath.
The Decatur Federation of Teaching Assistants is planning to go on strike on Tuesday, Oct. 29. Negotiations with the Decatur Board of Education have broken down particularly over health insurance premiums. Talks began in April, and mediation began on Aug. 27.
Regardless of the outcome, ultimately no one wins as a result of a strike. Time is lost, trust is lost, resentments linger. We've seen enough labor disputes in Decatur to know what the fallout looks like.
First and most clearly, the students who rely on these assistants will pay a large price. Absent their assistance, these students will be stranded either in their school or in their homes. Both cases represent time and opportunities wasted.
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Whatever the union decides to do, there will be dissatisfaction. There will be those among the troops who will feel disappointment no matter what the settlement is. Some on the outside will look at any of the offers as reasonable ones they'd be glad to take. Students who need those assistants will remember the time they went away.
The Board of Education continues to say it is bargaining in good faith. There's every reason to believe that's the case. But the board has done a poor job communicating its bargaining positions. We're not even necessarily looking for exact numbers, although we know those will come out eventually. We're not looking for the board to reveal any of its bargaining strategies. The board's current position seems to be “This is good, trust us.”
The board isn't doing a good job of explaining reasons it won't budge on issues the assistants consider breaking points. The district's ongoing lack of communication is maddening, and this comes in the aftermath of the issues at Stephen Decatur Middle School. When you allow someone else to control your narrative, you're generally going to end up on the wrong side of public opinion.
There's still time to work out an agreement, and we hope the sides can come to equitable decisions and conclusions.