There’s been a great deal of upheaval involving teacher’s unions over the last year. There was and is great drama in Wisconsin where teacher’s and their Democrat lackeys in the legislature went hands on with Gov. Scott Walker to fight his efforts to reform public employee unions.
But here in Prince William County, VA, where I live, it’s been comedy.
It began in Richmond, where the teacher’s statewide union and Democrat lackeys in the legislature defeated Gov. Bob McDonnell’s effort to reform tenure rules. Encouraged by this victory, local teachers and the Prince William Education Assn. began a ‘work to rule’ campaign to put pressure on the school board to include a raise in next year’s budget. This meant they didn’t stay after school to help students with extra curricular activities unless they were paid extra.
Teachers conducted “grade–ins” at grocery stores and government meetings. They wore buttons to school and made a big solidarity production out of entering the school building together in the morning and leaving en masse in the afternoon.
After writing about the campaign, I discovered area teachers are avid readers, because many of them took time to send me irate email. To recap, in my view the PWC school board has gone out of its way to protect teachers from the economy pounding the taxpaying private sector.
While 300,000 teaching jobs have been lost nationwide, there have been no layoffs in Prince William County. In Loudoun teachers were threatened with unpaid furlough days, but not here in PWC. And although the county government employees took a 5 percent hit to their paycheck to cover costs passed down from the state, teachers didn’t lose a dime.
It was striking to me how many of the hostile teachers complained about dealing with children. It’s like a surgeon griping about cutting people open.
Kids are unruly, there are too many of them, they clutter up the hallways, they turn in papers that need to be graded. According to those emails, working conditions rivaled that of a Chinese iPad assembly line worker. With long hours, oppressive supervision and no noodles for lunch.
Many of the emails were also confused about the practice of journalism and the cushy life reporters lead. Although I currently enjoy a lofty perch in the journalistic pantheon, I started out in this business as a sports director for a TV station in West Texas. After a month the news director informed me I was now the Midland city reporter AND the sports director, effectively doubling my workload with the same pay.
This meant my day could either start at 10 AM or 2 PM but it always ended at 10:30 PM after the last newscast. What’s more, we worked Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Year’s and the Fourth of July, if those dates came during the week. There were no four–day weekends or Easter Break in the news business. And we didn’t get the summer off.
But enough about me. Another correspondent complained that with a master’s degree and nine years experience she “scarcely make(s) over $50,000” a year. If she’s at step nine on the pay scale it means her salary is $58,312 annually.
This is $22,575 more than the per capita income in PWC and compares well with the median nationwide income of $61,273 for master’s degree holders. Particularly when you remember most master’s degree holders are working, according to Forbes magazine, 225 days per year instead of her 195 as a teacher.
Another disgruntled educator complained about having three bosses, evidently watching her like a hawk. Her compadre wrote, “teachers are observed by their administrators several times each year and formally evaluated every three years.”
And guess what? Everyone is above average, just like in Lake Woebegone! Last year in PWC out of 5,422 teachers a grand total of 16 did not have their contract renewed. That’s three tenths of one percent.
For comparison purposes, in healthcare — another “caring industry” — 4.6 percent of the employees were discharged involuntarily in 2011. Even in the utility industry, hardly a hotbed of job insecurity, 2 percent of employees were let go. In PWC education a comparable number would have been 108, but instead tenure protects the good, the bad and the unmotivated.
So what was the result of the work to rule campaign? Last week the school board did vote for the pay increase teacher’s demanded and it proved to be a real learning experience. Teacher activists got to familiarize themselves with the meaning of “Pyrrhic Victory” and brush up on their percentages.
The board approved an increase, but it also lengthened the school day from 7 hours to 7.5. The new school year adds an additional 97.5 hours, an increase of 7 percent.
This “pay raise” increases salaries an average of 2.85 percent for all employees although 1,800 teachers will receive less and 270 teachers at the top of the scale will receive nothing.
Getting down to cases, a teacher with a BA degree at step 10 made $54,863 a year or $40.19/hr. before the “raise.” After the raise she makes $56,427 (assuming she gets the full increase) but her hourly wage drops to $38.58/hr.
So after this victory she’s making $1.61/hr. LESS than she made before. A few more triumphs of labor solidarity like this and landscaping may start to look attractive as a career option.
At least Pyrrhus beat the Romans at Heraclea and Asculum, which is more than you can say for the PWEA. Teachers wanted a raise in the worst way and it looks like that’s what the school board gave them.