Board's decision to impose working conditions instead of reaching a settlement throws decades of collaboration with district's teachers aside
BURLINGTON - The Burlington School Board's decision to end bargaining and move to impose working conditions means they have chosen division, chaos and confrontation above collaborating with the men and women who teach the city's children, according to the Burlington Education Association.
"As teachers, our first and most important commitment is to our students," said Fran Brock, a Burlington High School history teacher who serves as the union's president. "It's why we've been bargaining for a contract that continues to allow us to serve the city's children well. Unfortunately, what the board did today will do nothing for Burlington's schools, residents and students."
The union has tried to settle a one-year contract for over a year now. Throughout that year, teachers have signaled their willingness to settle, and have made significant compromises along the way, including an offer yesterday to fully accept the recommendations of a neutral fact-finder. Instead of compromising in a way that could lead to an agreement, the board's negotiating team routinely floated proposals that would make it harder for the district to recruit and retain excellent teachers; that would upend decades of collaboration; and that would substantially eviscerate contract terms that have been worked out together.
"Whether it's the insulting notion that earning advanced degrees amounts to nothing or the ludicrous salary proposal that would have many mid-career teachers see their compensation slip even further behind nearby districts, this board clearly wants a fight," Brock said. "There's still time to do the right thing and reach a settlement, but, sadly, the actions and words from the board chairman and other leaders doesn't give us much hope for a change in direction."
The board claims that paying teachers a salary that lands them in the middle of Chittenden County pay levels would force the district to cut programs for children. That claim, however, has yet to be substantiated with any detail. "We know that the taxpayers of Burlington are generous, because they routinely invest heavily in their students," Brock said. "But when it comes to how that money is spent, the board treats all of us - parents, students, teachers and residents the same. They won't level with us where all of the money is going."
At the conclusion of yesterday's negotiating session, the teachers filed a formal grievance over the board's failure to live up to terms in the expired contract that require teacher compensation to be "in the middle-of-the-middle" for Chittenden County districts. Both sides were to be abiding by the terms of the expired contract.