There will be no school Thursday in Burlington, as teachers tell us they will strike. The Burlington Education Association says Mayor Miro Weinberger’s involvement failed to reach a deal.
The following is a portion of the press release, sent by the BEA:
“The board continues to claim that it wants to work collaboratively with us to address the achievement gap, but their actions say otherwise,” said Fran Brock, a Burlington High School History teacher who serves as president of the 400-member union. “Today, they had an opportunity to work with us to address the achievement gap in our elementary schools. They did not take that opportunity. They had an opportunity to work with us to stem the exodus of teachers by reaching a deal that attracts and retains the best for our city’s students. They failed to do so. And they continued their years-long quest to institute top-down approaches that do nothing for our students.”
The teachers were set to strike today, but agreed to hold off because a former federal mediator invited both sides and the mayors to meet.
The board brought this clash to a head when it voted Sept. 1 to impose terms of employment on teachers only minutes after the previous contract expired. It was the second year in a row that this board imposed terms as quickly as it could. This board is also only one of seven in the history of Vermont to take this step more than once – and most boards have never used the option even once.
“We’ve compromised – again today – on health insurance and salary,” Brock noted, saying teachers were willing to accept the recommendations of a neutral fact-finder. “I guess the board really meant what it said when it rejected the reasonable approach outlined by the fact-finder.”
Brock noted that the union’s bargaining committee accepted high school working condition language that establishes a collaborative committee to examine means of providing services to students in effort to close the achievement gap. However, the board insisted on imposing too many non-teaching duties on elementary school teachers, limiting their ability to provide professional services to students.
“We’ve been trying to get the board to understand that elementary teachers are having too much of their time drawn away from one-on-one interaction with students,” Brock said. “And now, for more than three years, they still won’t budge.”
The following is a portion of the press release, sent by the Burlington School District
“The Board entered the bargaining session today understanding the primary obstacle to settlement was resolving operational issues at the high school. These issues were resolved early in today’s session. Subsequently the BEA brought additional demands.”
The Board responded by offering:
- A total salary increase of over 8 percent (an average of over $6,000 per teacher).
- A three year contract to avoid costly negotiations.
- Additional health insurance savings (saving employees $280 to over $2,500)
The BEA rejected this offer and has chosen to strike.
There will be no school or school activities on Thursday, but meals will be available for students from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m.