Some Prince William teachers consider ‘work to the rule’ protest

Some Prince William County teachers and staff plan to protest the county’s proposed pay freezes starting Monday.

The protests would take the form of a “work to the rule” campaign, whereby teachers would come in together and work just the hours stipulated by their contract, usually 7:15 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. While mostly symbolic, the protests are meant to underscore how much teachers do for their students outside of school hours, such as helping with homework or leading before and after school activities.

There is talk of such protests at Forest Park High School, Patriot High School, Battlefield High School and even some middle schools, said Forest Park teacher K.C. Farrow.

The protests stem from the school’s proposed budget that does not include pay increases next year or three years following. While teachers have earned small pay increases, so-called “step” increases — automatic increases that go up on a scale that takes into account how many years teachers have worked in the system — have not occurred due to budget cuts over the last several years.

“We’re trying to make a point and hopefully somebody will make a change,” Farrow said.

The superintendent’s proposed budget, however, still has not been worked on by the School Board, who will make the ultimate decision, and budget figures are still preliminary. The budget is scheduled to be adopted this spring.

That’s why some think it is too premature for a protest. “We would like for them to do something positive, something constructive,” said Bonnie Klakowicz, the president of the Prince William Education Association, which represents teachers’ interests. “I understand individuals are feeling really upset, but they need to consider the consequences.”

Klakowicz said some teachers have planned a “grade-in” at a Board of County Supervisors meeting, where teachers will sit in front of supervisors and do work or grade papers. She said that’s a more measured, positive approach to show county leaders all that teachers do for the county.

But Farrow is undeterred. “There’s a right and there’s a wrong, and this is terribly wrong,” she said.

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