Rep. Tom Christensen, R-Sevier, has criticized the recent one-day strike of Utah teachers, which Sevier District teachers will make up for on Jan. 2, as "ill-advised."
Christensen said teachers in the district went on strike while under a valid contract and asks, "What is a contract for if it has been negotiated and signed by those concerned? Does it have no value? What purpose does a contract serve?" He predicted, "The rift that will develop because of it will be years healing within school faculty, within families, within neighborhoods and the communities."Meanwhile, the board of education decided that teachers and students will trek back to the classrooms one day early after the Christmas vacation. It was noted in the board meeting that the state superintendent's office decided the strike was a violation of contract agreement.
Board members considered other dates for the makeup day, including Dec. 22 and tacking an extra day on to the school year in May. Board member Ruth Jackson said parents and teachers need the time to prepare for Christmas on the December date. Gerald Johnson said students would be less attentive and get little benefit if an additional day was tacked on at the end of the school year.
In his open letter to the public, Christensen said education has received special attention in the Legislature even in times when funds were limited, and that legislators "are not callous and unfeeling." He added that the Legislature can't "blank check" any group, and that public employees, Social Services, higher education, law enforcement and other groups are also deserving of legislative attention.
Christensen said the weighted pupil unit was increased from $1,204 to $1,240 per student in the last Legislature and that, "Taxes were raised in '81, '82, '83, '84 and the biggest one-time jump in '87."
The average teacher in the Sevier District receives a salary and benefits of $29,631, Christensen said. The salary is $21,971 and benefits amount to $7,660, he said. This includes $1,650 in Social Security, $2,823 in retirement, and $3,187 in other benefits.
"In my opinion, the strike by teachers was not merited," Christensen said.
He also criticized Sevier District teachers who urged area residents not to support the local news media because of editorials criticized them for walking out of the schools. "School districts need all the tax dollars they can get and (teachers) should encourage local business, not erode their chance for profits."