Education

Burlington teachers picket for further talks

teachers
Burlington Education Association members picket Tuesday in Burlington to push for reopening of contract negotiations. Photo by Kelsey Neubauer/VTDigger

BURLINGTON — City teachers have been picketing in the pouring rain to urge the school board to reopen negotiations with their union.

The Tuesday afternoon informational picket — and others planned for today — aimed to inform the public of the school board’s recent decision to impose working conditions rather than continuing to negotiate a contract with the Burlington Education Association.

This is the second year in a row that the board has imposed salary and other terms on local teachers. It’s the seventh school board in the state to take that step twice, the BEA said.

The union membership plans to meet Thursday to decide what to do next, including the possibility of striking.

Last year the two sides reached a one-year deal hours before a strike was set to begin in October.

“We are not happy. We are angry,” union President Fran Brock said at Tuesday’s picket.

The teachers’ goal is to persuade the board to reopen negotiations, the union said in a news release Tuesday.

The two sides haven’t agreed on salary increases or health care contributions, although the union has said they are close.

One of the biggest issues teachers want to negotiate is the use of time throughout the school day, Brock said.

Since cutting back on educators and para-educators in recent years, class sizes have increased, with some nearing maximum occupancy in the high school, Brock said.

Without further negotiations, she said, teachers would have to increase the number of classes taught, taking time away from student-directed programming and one-on-one time with students.

This increase in workload is meant to address the achievement gap between different groups of students, but Brock said students would suffer in the long run if teachers must increase their course load.

“We too want to narrow the achievement gap, but we need the board to do it with us and not against us,” Brock said.

The school board chair, Mark Porter, has called the contract terms set by the board “fair and reasonable” in the context of “student needs and the ability of the community to fund public education.”

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Kelsey Neubauer

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