Teachers In Fairfax Rally for Higher Pay

By Maria Glod
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 16, 2006

Teachers in Fairfax County yesterday staged demonstrations at schools across the county, calling for higher salaries and highlighting time they spend on the job without additional pay, said union officials who helped organize the protests.

Arranged by the 6,500-member Fairfax Education Association, the events were low-key. They were part of a broader effort to inspire support for more public school funding as officials make budget decisions about teacher pay and academic programs for the next fiscal year. Union officials said at least some teachers at more than 100 schools participated, but they had no estimates of how many of the system's approximately 13,000 teachers took part.

The union also urged teachers to go to a rally scheduled for April 3 to coincide with the first of three budget hearings before the county Board of Supervisors.

The union billed yesterday as a "work to the rule" day during which many teachers reported for the required 7.5 hours in school and did no unpaid work, such as tutoring or grading papers, before or after the school day.

Some teachers rescheduled meetings or canceled after-school sessions with students. Others paraded with signs outside schools and walked in just before the opening bell instead of arriving early, as many normally do, to prepare for the day. Others wore red as a quiet sign of support for higher teacher pay.

Fairfax Education Association President Richard J. Baumgartner said the teachers tried to get their message across without adversely affecting students.

"The point is not to harm kids; it's to get issues out," Baumgartner said. "The Board of Supervisors has been good to the school system. The problem is we need to remain competitive with surrounding districts in order to attract and maintain the very best teachers."

Schools spokesman Paul Regnier said he did not know of any instances yesterday in which classes or other activities, before or after school, were disrupted.

The teachers want county supervisors to support Superintendent Jack D. Dale's proposed $2.1 billion budget, which includes about $20 million to increase salaries for starting teachers and those with master's degrees and calls for a 3.25 percent cost-of-living raise for all employees. Baumgartner said some teachers can't afford to live in the county.

First-year teachers in Fairfax with no previous experience earn $40,000, and Dale's plan would increase that to $43,050 -- a figure that would edge out most neighboring districts. In Montgomery County, first-year teachers earn $40,542, and school officials want to increase it to $41,758. Loudoun County school officials have proposed a $42,174 starting salary for teachers.

The average salary for teachers in the county system is $57,958.

So far, the supervisors have indicated that they would increase county funding, which accounts for about 75 percent of the schools budget, by 6 percent instead of the 8.1 percent the schools are requesting. That would fund a 3 percent cost-of-living raise but would not allow for other increases for teachers with graduate degrees or for new teachers.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerald E. Connolly (D) said that before the board votes on a final budget, it must weigh many competing demands. But he said most members would consider boosting school funding to elevate teacher salaries. "We're in agreement we ought to look for opportunities to provide additional compensation for teachers," he said.

At Glasgow Elementary in the Alexandria section of the county, dozens of teachers gathered outside yesterday morning wearing red T-shirts that read, "All this in a 7.5 hour day?" above a laundry list of duties including lesson planning and staff meetings.

Cindy Waters, Glasgow's PTA president, said that when she arrived at the school for scheduled conferences with teachers later on, she saw no evidence of the demonstration.

Christopher Malinosky, an eighth-grade social studies teacher in his second year at Glasgow who was part of the demonstration, said he earns about $40,000. He usually arrives at work about 6:45 a.m. and stays until 5 p.m. "It's a professionalism issue," he said. "I don't mind working the long hours, but it would be nice to be recognized."

Most Wednesdays, Malinosky mentors three students after school. They work on homework, talk and play basketball. He canceled this week's session after explaining the demonstration to the students.

Yesterday, he left promptly at 3 p.m.

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