Hundreds of Arlington County teachers booed, hissed and walked out of a school board meeting last week after board members unanimously approved a 2 per cent pay increase for teachers.
During the meeting, one teacher brought a rusty screw-driver with him to the podium when he spoke against what he called the "paltry salary adjustment." As the teachers walked out, he presented the screw-driver to school board chairman Diane Henderson, calling it a symbol of "what has been put to teachers time and time again."
More than 400 Arlington teachers gathered at the meeting to protest the 2 per cent increase, which Arlington Education Assn. officials called "a pittance, a scrap thrown away as an after-thought."
"We're competing at the grocery store, at the doctor's office with Arlington residents who have received 10 per cent salary increases," said Marjorie Sale, executive director of the Arlington Education Assn., to which most Arlington teachers belong.
"This means that 46 per cent of our teachers, those who are at the top of the teaching scale and will receive no more step increases, will be going home with actually smaller paychecks than last year. We're getting 2 per cent increase to keep up with 6 per cent rise in the cost of living last year alone."
Teacher salaries in Arlington now start at $10,547. The top scale for a teacher with a bachelor's degree and 15 years experience is $19,500. For a teacher with a master's degree, 30 more accredited hours of higher education and 15 years experience, top scale is $22,100.
School Supt. Larry Cuban, in justifying the board's action, said that teachers last year received a 5.76 per cent salary increase "at the expense of cuts in other personnel, programs and services." He said other personnel, such as office workers, custodians, bus drivers and cafeteria workers last year received lower increases (3 per cent).
During the 1977-78 school year, these employee groups will receive 4 per cent salary increases. Administrators and supervisory personnel, who along with the teachers last year received 5.76 per cent salary increases, will also receive a 2 per cent increase in salaries in the coming school year.
Cuban added that the school board has absorbed an increase of $90,000 in hospital insurance costs and an increase of $240,000 in the schools' retirement plan that otherwise would have gone into the $750,000 the board has earmarked for salary increases.
"I know that this country is wealthy enough to provide more than it does to the schools," Cuban said. "But within the budget we have to live with ($45.3 million) something had to give in 1977-78 and my judgment was to retain and restore services for children and teachers. It is not a policy for the future but as next year's reponse to a bad fiscal situation."
"But just a couple of weeks ago, Montgomery County was able to wring out more than $3 million from its school budget for salary increases," Sale said. "We're not even asking for such an amount. We do believe there are places in this budget that could be trimmed to come up with more money to pay teachers."
"This is a slap in the face to any teacher who thinks of himself or herself as a professional," said Lee Vosper, new president of the Arlington Education Assn. "It's about time teachers were thought of as human beings and not slaves."