The BEU is the collective voice of educators. Collective bargaining strengthens our schools. We are not volunteering for leadership committees because the committees have not yet been bargained with the BEU.
The school district wants to spend $100,000 from this year’s school budget on school leadership committees of ten educators who will “help lead each school in its ongoing work”. The committees are being advertised as giving educators a voice. But educators already have a voice and have been using it. The problem is that the administration doesn’t like what’s been said: educators have demanded to collectively bargain over the plan for leadership teams, but the district has refused. BEU educators are demanding that the district let educators exercise leadership on their own terms using their right to bargain collectively. Encouraging teachers to break with the union by acting only as individuals, as some administrators have, is a flagrant affront to educators’ right to self-organize and act in solidarity with one another — to act in unity — without interference.
In failing to address educators’ concerns through collective bargaining, the district unfortunately worsens a sense among educators that, for this administration, respecting teacher voice begins with talk and ends with talk, if they respond at all, not with action that respects us. Educators, through the BEU, have proposed to no avail that since there are available funds there should be 1) immediate pay raises for all paraprofessionals so that vacant positions will be easier to fill, and 2) increases for stipends for those already doing extra work.
We already know that until and unless teachers are given fewer instructional periods and lower student loads and caseloads, that we need fewer meetings and building responsibilities, not more. Meetings and other added responsibilities have been increasingly encroaching on teachers’ and related service providers’ face-time with students, duty free lunches, and time to prepare for the day’s classes or sessions. Many paras are filling in without additional pay. However, rather than fix this structural problem, the response of the administration has been to stymie our efforts to solve it.
Unsurprisingly, when educators hear that more will be added to the day, they insist on bargaining over the operation and impact of the new initiative. In response, the administration is trying to intimidate us and to manipulate individual educators into complying with their unilateral plan that further erodes our time to teach and right to negotiate agreements that the administration can be held to.
Here are some of the questions that the BEU will raise when given the opportunity to negotiate over school leadership teams. The questions go to the heart of the union’s commitment to increasing respect for the professional judgement of each and every educator and fighting for staffing and working conditions that create the best learning conditions for students.
1) What is the scope of work and time that will be compensated, and at what rate? Why are paraprofessionals, who will contribute equally, compensated at a lower rate than teachers?
2) How are committee members chosen, and how, when, and why will they qualify as representatives?
3) In seeking to represent others, how will the committee members consult with colleagues in a way that does not displace other important activities or leave colleagues under pressure to give up their preps or lunch?
4) If any activity is displaced by the work of these teams, what will happen to it?
5) What additional work will be expected of the rest of the staff?
6) How will decisions within the teams be made?
7) How will the decisions or recommendations of the team be implemented? Will the district negotiate with the union over these decisions?