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State Report

ESP Academy

New Jersey: The New Jersey Education Association (NJEA)  is offering education support professionals (ESPs) the chance to get back in the classroom. NJEA recently launched its ESP Career Academy to better serve the 50,000 ESPs among its 196,000 members. The academy provides education opportunities through online programs, workshops, seminars, and a partnership with several community colleges that can help members earn a two-year degree.

Thirteen Paras Win Three

Vermont: Thirteen paraprofessionals represented by the Ludlow Education Association (LEA) reached a three-year settlement that provides base wage increases to $10.37 per hour this year, $11.23 in 2007–08, and $12.06 in 2008–09. In addition, negotiators cut the number of steps in the salary schedule and added a new column for paras who are “highly qualified” or hold a degree. Bereavement leave, an increase in tuition reimbursement, and complaint language were also added to the contract.

No End to Litigation

Washington: The Mt. Adams School District continues to defend its decision to fire two teachers without termination hearings in 2002. Gary Giedra and Caryl Spencer were fired because their state certificates had expired—even though Spencer’s renewal application was mishandled by the district’s interoffice mail service, and Giedra had renewed his certificate within 11 days of its lapse. When the two lost their jobs without due process, the legal team at the Washington Education Association (WEA) stepped in.

In 2005, after years of litigation, the Washington Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling that the two had the right to termination hearings and awarded Giedra and Spencer about $215,000 in back pay and attorney fees. But last year, school district officials disputed the ruling. (One of the teachers has since stopped teaching, and the other moved to another district.) “Most school districts work with teachers in that situation,” says WEA field representative Mike Horner. “They put in a substitute while the teacher gets the certificate renewed.” The district could spend around $300,000 trying the case.

A No-Relief Tax Cut

South Carolina: The legislature recently voted to eliminate the portion of taxes levied on owner-occupied homes that is earmarked for schools. The idea is to offset the loss of local revenue for public schools with a one-cent increase in the state sales tax—generating $585 million. But officials with the South Carolina Education Association (SCEA) don’t believe the tax increase will replace lost property taxes. Replacing local taxes with state taxes also shifts control from local communities to state lawmakers, says SCEA President Sheila Gallagher. “This legislation is about political relief, not property tax relief,” she adds.

More Time To Teach

Colorado: “Regaining time to teach” was the theme of a recent organizing campaign in Denver that attracted 102 new members in just two weeks. The target of opportunity campaign, sponsored by the Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA) , focused on the return of discretionary time to teachers, smaller class sizes, teacher-led professional development, and a reduction in paperwork, such as elementary report cards that are 14 pages long. “The capacity-building gained from the campaign was phenomenal,” says DCTA President Kim Ursetta. About 3,200 educators were contacted, and some provided written testimony about the time squeeze.

“We have a ton of anecdotes to use in our newspaper, our lobbying efforts—everywhere,” Ursetta says. “The stories show a profession stretched to the max.”

Raising Rank

Iowa: Iowa’s teacher salary ranking, now 41st in the nation, will undoubtedly improve after a dramatic pay hike totaling more than $200 million over three years. The state earmarked pay hikes totaling $35 million this school year, $70 million for the next, and $105 million in 2008–09. “This agreement is a great down payment toward ensuring that Iowa can continue to attract and keep top-quality teachers,” says Linda Nelson, president of the Iowa State Education Association (ISEA) . “As other states continue to move ahead, we have to keep up.” The landmark legislation marks the culmination of a multi-year ISEA effort to generate public support for increasing school funding from preK classes to community colleges.

Teacher Pay Boost

Louisiana: Gov. Kathleen Blanco hopes to reach the regional average in teacher pay by boosting salaries in early 2007 by about $2,100. The average state salary for teachers is $42,100, below the  regional average of $44,219. The Louisiana Association of Educators (LAE)  is asking for a $3,000 pay hike.

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