As you may know, contract negotiations for Jeffco teachers have hit a rough patch. The district has offered a 10-month contract for teachers. It would expire on June 30, 2016. The teachers have asked for 3-year contract, expiring Aug. 31, 2018.
It is important to understand what kinds of things this contract does and does not do. It does not, and has never, guaranteed salaries from one year to the next. Once upon a time, it offered a salary schedule that basically said, “Assuming similar funding in the years to come, this is what a teacher can expect.” The salary schedule did not prevent salaries being renegotiated every year; it was a prediction and good-faith commitment, not a binding agreement. It allowed teachers to make informed decisions for their careers.
But that was a long time ago. The last time teachers had a say in their salaries, they willingly took pay cuts followed by freezes to protect students from budget cuts. The last time teacher compensation was decided, it was done by three people on the school board, and teachers were left out entirely.
The contract JCEA went to discuss Wednesday July 15 included a pay increase of around one percent for teachers this year. Nothing more in terms of compensation. No clue what next year will bring.
What it does do is determine class size, protect academic freedom and a teacher’s ability to appropriately address student discipline, define leave time, make sure teachers have the training and planning time to execute effective lesson plans and proper assessment of student progress, outline viable assessment of teacher effectiveness, and actively foster collaboration within buildings for the benefit of kids.
The district and JCEA came to agreement on all of these things. In fact, the district negotiators wrote a lot of it themselves, and anything the union wrote was subject to their approval. If the district believed any of it was not in the best interest of kids, they wouldn’t have agreed to have it in there. If, in practice, some of it doesn’t work out as planned, the traditional negotiations process has allowed each side to bring three things to the table to renegotiate each year. (Not including salary, which is always renegotiated.)
The overall content of the contract is not at issue for either side. Only the duration. If the district gets what they want, it allows them to refuse to negotiate next year and leaves the teachers scattered for the summer, unable to bring to bear any sort of collective pressure.
So here’s the question: What is in this contract that the district (most likely, really, the board majority) wants to be able to eliminate as soon as possible? Do they want to raise class sizes, inevitably lowering the quality of instruction? Is it academic freedom, so they can get rid of AP U.S. History once and for all, denying Jeffco kids a chance at college credit? Do they want teachers to fear that keeping discipline in their classes will lead to the loss of their jobs? Do you want your child in the classroom of a fearful teacher?
How does any of this benefit kids?