As the union’s members decide next steps, the Burlington Education Association urges the board to drop imposition and return to the table and settle
BURLINGTON – The men and women who teach Burlington’s children today unanimously voted to reject last week’s imposition of working conditions, saying the board’s action will cause nothing but disruption.
“By imposing working conditions on the Burlington Education Association, the Burlington School Board signaled it would rather fight with teachers than reach a settlement,” said Fran Brock, a Burlington High School history teacher who serves as the union’s president. “There is only one way to come back from the brink, and that is for the board to rescind the imposition and reach an agreement with us.”
At the time the board voted 10-1 (with one abstention) to slam the door on continued negotiations, the teachers had offered to accept all of the recommendations made by a neutral fact-finder (you can read his report here). Board members said they didn’t want to impose – some even cried in explaining their votes – but they did so anyway. Mark Porter, the board chairman, pointed his finger at the room packed full of teachers and parents and said his vote to impose should not be taken as a slight at teachers, but at “the union.”
“I have – we have – a message for Mr. Porter and others on the board who think they can separate our union from our members: we are all the BEA,” Brock said. “It’s a classic move by people who want to break unions, but we won’t be swayed.”
The teachers have sought a one-year contract for over a year now; before the board ended negotiations and imposed working conditions, teachers and the board had been honoring the terms of the expired contract.
The board has repeatedly declined requests from teachers, parents and taxpayers for a more transparent account of where the city’s school budget is being spent. Brock noted that Burlington taxpayers are generous in their support of the city’s schools. “But they, like we, want to ensure that the district’s resources be dedicated to giving students the best schools we can,” Brock said. “Unfortunately, this board refuses to give detailed line-item budgets that would help us all understand the board’s motivation.”
At the time the board voted to impose working conditions and end bargaining, the union’s offer to accept the recommendations of the neutral fact-finder was on the table. The board said it couldn’t afford the fact-finder’s recommendations, saying they would lead to cuts to student programming of about $400,000. They have yet to show details that would substantiate that claim, despite hiring former superintendents, former business managers, an economist and a school board negotiating consultant. The cost of those experts has not been formally disclosed, but a board member posted on social media that the charge for consultants and legal services has so far totaled almost $260,000.
The board claimed that its imposed salary schedule would amount to raises for teachers. The truth is coming out that for many teachers, there is no raise, and, with the hike in health insurance premiums and other imposed costs, some Burlington teachers may be seeing a pay cut.
“This board has had a choice all along to work collaboratively with us,” Brock said. “Sadly, the board chairman and his fellow leaders have made it clear they prefer a divisive, disruptive course. It’s not too late. We implore the board to rescind the imposition and meet us back at the table. We have important work to do, and we hope the board can prevent any further disruption to the school year.”