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Thursday, September 7, 2017

Burlington Teachers Vote to Strike If Contract Battle Is Not Resolved

Posted By on Thu, Sep 7, 2017 at 7:18 PM

click to enlarge Burlington teachers rallying for raises in the Edmunds Middle School cafeteria August 31 - JAMES BUCK
  • James Buck
  • Burlington teachers rallying for raises in the Edmunds Middle School cafeteria August 31
Burlington teachers will go on strike Wednesday unless their contract battle with the city school board is resolved.

Teachers voted to strike Thursday afternoon. The move escalated the tension in a messy labor dispute and created uncertainty for parents of the city's 3,700 public school students.

“Moments ago, my fellow members and I voted to authorize a strike beginning on September 13 if the board fails to come back to the table and stay there until we reach an agreement for a contract covering this school year,” said Fran Brock, Burlington Education Association president, in a press release issued late Thursday afternoon.

Brock, a Burlington High School history teacher, lashed out at the board for imposing contract terms last Friday and also accused the board of neglecting student needs.

“We are done standing by while a shrinking percentage of the district’s budgets goes to student instruction. And we are done standing by while this board prefers condescension over collaboration,” Brock said in her statement.

Board chair Mark Porter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
click to enlarge Educators and their supporters making signs last Thursday - JAMES BUCK
  • James Buck
  • Educators and their supporters making signs last Thursday
Battle lines have been drawn over raises and health care, as well as direct instruction time.

The board disagrees with the union's assessment of the situation. Members have said they are trying to increase instruction time to pull underperforming students up to grade level — with resistance from the union.

The board voted 9-1 to impose a contract for the 2017-2018 school year that offered an average $1,702 raise for teachers, representing a percentage increase of about 2.4 percent.

Burlington teachers earned an average of about $69,000 last year. Top pay was $84,750 and entry level pay was just more than $43,565.

Teachers rejected the imposed terms.

Over the course of some 17 contract meetings, the board developed a number of charts that suggested recent teacher raises and local school taxes have outpaced what taxpayers can afford.

This year's strike vote echoes the discord that soured that start of the school year in 2016, when the board also imposed a contract and teachers took a strike vote. But at the last minute, the two sides were able to hash out a one-year agreement and there was no strike.

It's unclear how things will play out this year.

Brock said teachers truly want a solution.

"We don’t want to strike; no one ever does," she said. "What we want is for this school board to recognize our determination for a contract that works to keep the very best teachers so our city’s children can thrive."


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Molly Walsh

Molly Walsh

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Molly Walsh is a Seven Days staff writer.

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