Complete Colorado tipped me off to the escalating teacher “sickout” in Boulder Valley School District. Students in six schools were adversely affected by 342 “professional” teachers faking a high temperature to make some sort of statement, a few short days after 60 out of 84 Broomfield High School teachers also failed to show up to class.
So in these hard economic times of rising unemployment, voluntary pay cuts, and furloughs, why is the BVEA complaining about a total 6.35 percent compensation increase? Here are a few facts about existing BVSD teacher compensation and working conditions:
- In 2008-09 teachers may earn as little as $33,518 and as much as $82,555 in base salary — determined strictly by their years of experience and graduate credits earned
- In 2007-08, the average salary was $53,223
- In 2008-09, most teachers receive about $450 per month in employer contributions for health and dental benefits
- According to the existing bargaining agreement, of the 187 contract days teachers are obligated to work:
- 12 days are available for personal and sick leave purposes (apparently, some teachers haven’t been able to use the full complement yet this year)
- 5.5 days are teacher work / preparation days
- 5.5 days are district and school professional development days
- Of the 37.5 hours in a contracted work week (7.5 hours per day):
- 4.5 hours are reserved for duty-free planning
- 2.5 hours are reserved for duty-free lunch
My purpose is not to begrudge many individual teachers some of their well-earned benefits. Rather, I wanted readers to see that we’re not talking about the Ludlow mine strike here.
Even more importantly from a policy point of view, we have to ask: How can all these standards apply across the district to elementary teachers, P.E. teachers, math teachers, English teachers, music teachers, etc.? What about differentiated pay? What about setting the standards for working conditions at the school level — with flexibility and a hands-on, personal approach? What about giving newer teachers the opportunity to earn more without the rigid steps-and-lanes salary schedule that aligns pay with factors that have no impact on student learning?
Sadly, the “sickout” is not a new phenomenon to Boulder Valley. Five years ago I explained how it wasn’t good for kids, and I stand by it today. For what it’s worth, the following clause in the collective bargaining agreement is still there, too:
There will be no strikes or other individual or concerted action designed to deprive the youth in the schools of services of Unit B employees. Any employee who engages in such actions during the term of this Agreement shall be subject to severe disciplinary action. Such disciplinary action shall be subject to the Grievance Procedure contained in this Agreement, except where applicable the state statute will apply.
The one-size-fits-all bargaining contract model is more fit for a 20th century industrial economy than a 21st century teaching workforce. But the district should honor this provision of the contract as much as it honors any other.
Only those who act like professionals should expect to be treated like professionals. But in the end, wouldn’t we all be better off paying teachers like professionals, too?
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