After more than 12 years of gradual, uphill organizing the 6,700-member Fairfax Teachers' Association took a backslide last week as the Fairfax County School Board voted to void its current three-year contract with the association.
The nullification of the contract, done to comply with a recent Virginia State Supreme Court ruling that negotiated contracts between professional organizations and local governing bodies were illegal, means that the association loses its privilieged position as the recognized, exclusive bargaining agent for Fairfax teachers.
School board chairman, Rodney F. Page, reiterated the board's attitude stated Jan. 18 that "current board policy relating to basic terms and conditions of employment will continue."
Ed Anderson, president of FEA which represents almost 80 per cent of Fairfax's educational staff from teacher's aides up to assistant area supervisors, said that although he is encouraged by the board's attitude, he is pessimistic about all the terms in the contract agreement being met.
"I can't believe that between now and 1979 they will abide by what they agreed to. It's too tempting not to abide when the requirements are taken off," Anderson said.
He pointed to the effort by three school board members two weeks ago to reduce the county's contribution to the teachers' hospitalization insurance as a possible preview of future threats to agreements between the teachers and the board.
The motion failed by a vote of 7-3 but several of the board members indicated that if further cuts in the budget became necessary, the health insurance contribution would be a likely target. A reduction in the county's share of the insurance costs would save $2.4 million in the school budget.
"Everything we agreed to are hopes now, rather than something we can definitely look forward to," Anderson said. "On June 30th if we get that 5.4 per cent raise, we'll believe it."
The school board subsequently considered a package of recommendations from School Superintendent S. John Davis covering specific provisions which had been part of the now-voided contract.
Davis recommended that practices set up in the contract be continued in four areas: following FEA approved grievance procedures; maintaining the current system for distributing over time; maintaining a joint employee-employer retirement fund trustee board (although belonging to FEA can no longer be a requirement in order to run for elected position, according to Anderson), and continuing to allow school visits by representatives of employee organizations.
In four other areas, however, the superintendent proposed changes from what was provided for in the contract: that leaves-of-absence for presidents of employee organizations be unpaid: that administrative leave be allowed only for meetings dealing with instruction-related activties and not with the business-end of the organization; that the deduction of dues from teachers' paychecks become a service the school system would charge for (right now it is done free) and finally, that only "presidents" (vs. "elected officers") be allowed leaves-of-absence for the meetings of employee organizations.
Davis also suggested that organizations be charged for their use of the in-house courier service which they now use without cost for ciculating their literature.
The board will vote on these policies at their Feb. 25 meeting. Page said the board will be "as responsible as possible" and he hoped the board's action "will not cause any morale problems."
In other action at its meeting last week, the school board formally adopted its budget for the next school year of 1978 by a vote of 7-2. John Caussin (Springfield District) and nancy Falck (Dranesville District) voted against the $289.3 million budget. Dr. Robert Smith (Annandale District) who voted against the budget at a preliminary workshop two weeks ago, was absent.
The budget will be sent to the county executive for submission to the Board of Supervisors as part of the advertised budgets for all county agencies.
The board also approved a new philosophy course at McLean High School, and Robert G. Hunt, member-at-large, asked the board's staff for a report on teachers by a large number of out-of-state colleges which are operating in the area.