The Board of Education’s contract negotiations with the Newtown teachers union are going into binding arbitration, officials said last week.
School Supt. Dr. Janet Robinson said there are a number of unsettled contract issues, but she declined to list them because the two sides have still not made their last, best offers.
The first comment on the matter was made by Board of Finance Chairman John Kortze at a special meeting held Wednesday evening prior to a joint budget discussion between the boards of Finance, Selectmen and Education and the Legislative Council.
Kortze said he expects to be among the town officials called to testify before the arbitration panel, so that meant he could not discuss any of the specifics of what he had observed as a liaison observer for the Board of Finance in the contract negotiating sessions.
Robinson said the arbitration panel has been selected, and she expected the dates for the arbitration process would be finalized by the end of the week.
She noted the deadline for completion of the process is mid-November. But the two sides could continue negotiations even while the arbitration process proceeded in hopes of getting an agreement on their own.
Binding arbitration was the compromise solution in the 1980s after a series of divisive teacher strikes that mostly hit Connecticut’s big cities in defiance of state law that prohibits teachers from striking.
When the sides feel they have reached an impasse, they ask the state to approve binding arbitration, in which the arbitration panel imposes a settlement.
Both sides pick an arbitrator and the arbitrators pick a third, neutral panel member. Then the sides make their final offers. The panel receives testimony to support the positions of the school board and the union and then must pick the position of one side or the other on each contract issue.