Portland schools using $15,000-a-month consultant to do battle with union leaders

By Ben Velderman / EAG news.org

PORTLAND, Ore. – It costs taxpayers a lot of extra money to operate a school district that’s forced to haggle with school employee unions over salaries, benefits and other perks. woman with wheelbarrow of moneyWhile it’s nearly impossible to put an exact dollar figure on Big Labor’s overall, negative effect on most school budgets, taxpayers in Oregon’s Portland school district have been given a pretty good clue.

KATU.com reports that Portland school leaders are paying $15,000 a month to Yvonne Deckard, a consultant who is advising district officials in their ongoing, contentious contract talks with the Portland Association of Teachers, the local teachers union.

The news site reports that Deckard’s contract, which dates back to August 2012, caps the total payment at $90,000 – an amount that’s probably enough to pay the base salaries of two beginning teachers.

Some in the Portland community understand that and are upset with the district’s arrangement with Deckard. They believe that money should be spent on more teachers, technology and student programs.

We agree – at least in theory.

The reality is that Portland school officials needed to hire Deckard (or someone like her) to help them do battle with the local teachers union. It’s been well-documented that PAT leaders prepared for the current contract talks by studying the tactics used by the radical Chicago Teachers Union during its 2012 teachers’ strike.

Portland school leaders understood they needed someone in their corner who could meet PAT negotiators move for move, which Deckard has apparently done. District leaders are taking a hard line with the union over various teacher work rules, and are doing so in a manner that’s prevented the union from declaring a teachers’ strike.

There’s no doubt that in a perfect world, no school district would have to pay $15,000 a month to an employee who never sets foot in a classroom.

But as long as collective bargaining laws give school employee unions the legal right to force their selfish, budget-busting demands upon helpless school district leaders and taxpayers, hardnosed negotiators and political strategists like Deckard are not only necessary – they’re worth every penny.

Ben is a communications specialist for EAG and joined in 2010. He is a former member of the Michigan Education Association.

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