Last week came a bit of unaccustomed good news from Perkins Township: An arbitrator decided the seemingly interminable dispute between the teachers' union and the school board and administration.
As good as the news is, we wonder, what took so long?
This time, the fault wasn't here, but the lingering effects were.
The agreement, reached in September, to turn the dispute over to an arbitrator ended a strike that stained the start of the school year and created bad feelings that still echo today. The teachers made their proposal, the school district made its proposal, and then it was up to the federal arbitrator.
Missed meetings and unavailable arbitrators then became the rule rather than the exception and the undeniable point of agreement between teachers and district became, let's get this done!
Let's get this done because the teachers needed to know how much they'd be paid.
Let's get this done because the school district needed to know how much to budget for paying them -- and ask the voters for some of that money.
In the end, the arbitrator's decision, which is final and binding, is close enough to the teachers' final proposal that we wonder what the problem was, and why it took eight months to solve.
It didn't seem to be because of intransigence on the part of the disputing parties; they wanted to talk. But they needed the arbitrator present, and the arbitrator was not always available, even when promised.
Maybe federal labor mediators are overworked and spread thin. Undeniably, the Perkins dispute was festering for a while before brinksmanship pushed district and teachers to mediation -- but once the disputing parties agreed to bury the hatchet and accept the word of an outside party, it was necessary to provide that word, in as reasoned and as timely a manner as possible.
Yes, for the kids. But also for the ability of the schools, and the communities of which they are part, to support their kids.