I am Fran Brock, a history teacher at Burlington High School and president of the Burlington Education Association.
We have been trying to settle a one-year contract for this year for more than a year. This process started in July 2015. We will need to begin negotiating again in a couple of months for next year when all districts throughout the state will need to reach new agreements that take into consideration critical changes in response to changing health care costs.
The one-year contract that is currently under negotiation needs to be settled. We have made offers of compromise; the Board’s team has instead chosen a path of disruption with their talk of imposition and strikes. The board’s team has not supported their claim of insufficient funds with clear and detailed expenditure balance sheets.
The teachers continue to believe that Burlington residents have been generous with the funding; it is a question of how those funds have been allocated, especially in light of cuts to direct student services. We believe Burlington residents are generous because they believe in investing in all of the city’s children. They – and we – deserve to know just how that money is spent.
Sadly, the failure to come to an agreement has only increased the uncertainties and instability that are plaguing this district.
We did not reach an agreement last night after nearly 8 hours of talks. And while we have made clear that the fact-finding report gives us a clear path to settlement, the board’s team last night flouted the report, and instead made offers that would eviscerate the current contract.
The board’s most recent salary proposal may look fair on paper – but just delve into the details. It leaves a whole swath of mid-career teachers falling further behind their peers in neighboring districts – districts to which many of my fellow teachers – respected educators whose students love them – are now going. That is why the board’s last offer, fully 30 percent less than salary increases in neighboring districts, is unacceptable.
It is really unfortunate that we are at this point. But the board has had a choice for more than a year: where they could have sided with continuity and peace, they instead chose disruption and rancor. Now is not the time for disruption. Now is not the time for chaos, especially when our superintendent has to be out of the country for 16 days.
The community supports its schools and its teachers. The community wants what’s best for all of our city’s children. What they don’t want is disruption and chaos. What they don’t want is to be told that while they approve budgets that increase funding for schools, programs still have to be cut. What they want is what we want: great schools that strive to give each and every student a great chance of success.
We are the educators of Burlington, Vermont. We strive daily to build the schools that Burlington's kids deserve.