Pennsylvania: In January 2004, two teachers from the Selinsgrove Area School District were fired by the superintendent after one sought reimbursement for college tuition costs. At that time, union officials discovered that both teachers had been working without a contract while being paid temporary wages without benefits. The superintendent maintained that since the teachers, hired in 2001 for the district’s Alternative Education Program were not part of the bargaining unit, they were not entitled to receive the same negotiated salary and benefits as other teachers. This violated the contract. After arbitration efforts by the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA), both teachers were reinstated with back pay and benefits. They were also reimbursed for tuition costs and other expenses.
Just a Penny
Idaho: The Idaho Education Association (IEA) has proposed a sales tax ballot initiative that would ask voters next fall to approve a sales tax increase by a penny on the dollar, raising it from 5 percent to 6 percent. IEA President Sherri Wood says the money raised would benefit Idaho’s public and charter schools. About $190 million per year could be raised from the increase, which would go into effect in July 2007 if passed. While Idaho has the eighth highest class size in the nation, it ranks 45th in per pupil expenditure. IEA will need signatures from 6 percent of voters (47,881 minimum) to get the initiative on the ballot.
North Carolina: The North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) worked closely with Governor Mike Easley and his staff to develop a four-year plan that will pay North Carolina teachers a salary that is equal to or above the national average. The plan begins in 2008. Based on current estimates, the average salary for a North Carolina teacher will be $52,266 for the 2008—09 school year. Meanwhile, the recent state budget provided $85 million in a special salary provision to begin to address the pay disparity between educators in North Carolina and those in other parts of the country. This special provision, which began last November, provided a $750 across-the-board annualized increase for teachers and school-based administrators. Education support professionals received a $525 salary increase.
All in the (Union) Family
Massachusetts: Almost 2,200 higher education members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 888 at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, Boston, and Lowell recently voted to join the Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA). The vote came after MTA President Catherine Boudreau and SEIU International President Andrew Sternan reached an agreement. According to reports, Stern said SEIU 888 members would be better served by a union with a stronger focus on higher education. SEIU has about 1.8 million members in the United States and Canada who work primarily in the health, public, and property service industries.
DC ‘Should Be a Model’
Washington, D.C.: Approximately 700 Washington teacher aides work in Title I programs for impoverished students. About half could lose their jobs in June for failing to meet certification requirements under the No Child Left Behind law. The school system launched its certification effort too late and with insufficient funds, says Leslie Richards, president of the University of the District of Columbia Faculty Association/NEA (UDCFA). “This is the nation’s capital,” Richards says. “We should be a model for the nation.” To meet NCLB’s “highly qualified” provision, paraeducators must either have an associate’s degree or two years of higher education or pass a test verifying their knowledge. While UDCFA does not bargain for teacher-aides, many of those entering the profession receive their training at UDC, where UDCFA is based. Teacher’s aides are a pipeline to recruit teachers “from the local community who are often of the same color and culture of the students,” Richards says.
Toward a Living Wage
Nebraska: The Neligh-Oakdale Education Association (NOEA) won bargaining rights in December for the district’s 27 education support professionals (ESPs). Nebraska ESPs work “at will.” While only 15 of the district’s 27 ESPs are NOEA members, a majority registered their vote in favor of gaining bargaining rights. The vote was taken by the Nebraska Commission of Industrial Relations (NCIR), which handles public sector bargaining issues for public employees. “They will now move toward trying to gain a living wage,” says Marlene Wehrbein, a UniServ director with the Nebraska State Education Association (NSEA). “And as one group improves their compensation, there tends to be a domino effect across the state.”