The local used an 8-point agenda and Bargaining for the Common Good to win.
It was the day after National Teacher Appreciation Day, but members of the Prince George’s County Educators’ Association (PGCEA) weren’t feeling it. They’d missed step increases during the recession in 2009, 2010, and 2011 that were never made up and were put on the back burner year after year after year. When their school board rejected PGCEA’s proposal in May to restore lost steps, increase planning time, and ensure that co-taught classes be assigned both a general educator and a special educator, it finally broke the camel’s back.
“We took action because our children deserve to have the best teachers retained in our county schools. Our school district loses 1,200 to 1,500 educators each year but has been unwilling to invest in the retention of qualified, well-trained educators. Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) has continued to undervalue teacher contributions. That’s why we launched the first-ever Teacher Un-Appreciation Day,” said Theresa Mitchell Dudley, PGCEA president.
Educators stood up to demand recognition and real appreciation in scheduled pickets in front of a number of schools. And it wasn’t just salaries … their eight-point agenda also included less testing, smaller class sizes, sensible evaluations, healthy and safe learning environments, restorative practices, and professional autonomy.
“It’s been a decade of sacrifices for students and educators. All the while, management bloat has drained our schools of the resources students need to succeed. I picketed to tell the Board of Education and County Council that they need to do their jobs and provide us with the healthy schools educators and students deserve,” said Geva Hickman-Johnson, a parent and high school English teacher.
“Educators across the country are sick of sitting back and letting school systems fail to provide us with fair compensation or manageable classroom sizes,” said elementary teacher Malvery Smith. “I’m proud to be a part of the group of educators from Colorado and West Virginia to Oklahoma and California who are taking a stand and demanding change.”
On May 23, the 10,000-member union and the school system reached a tentative contract agreement and on June 17, PGCEA members voted to ratify it. The union credits for the agreement using the Bargaining for the Common Good model of negotiations — that’s the more global, community-minded collective bargaining process that works for the good of students, educators, and communities, not only wages and salaries.
“We are pleased that the institutional neglect of our educators has now changed. Our acting CEO is demonstrating heroic decision-making to retain and honor our members,” said Dudley. “After several years of organizing and our members standing up for what they deserve, we are proud that our most loyal educators have their value and worth recognized.
“This agreement is good for students, educators, and families. We are excited to work with PGCPS to ensure that the Prince George’s County community has world-class schools.”