Arlington County school employes have requested salary increases for next year ranging from 12 percent - for maintenance, clerical, and administrative workers - to 18 percent for teachers and teachers' aides. In addition, employes are requesting changes in pay "steps" and more staff members to improve various school programs.
School officials estimated that implementing the employe's requests would cost $9.1 million; of that $4.9 million would go for salary increases.
The requests come at a time when the school board is under pressure from the county board to hold the line on spending. Recently, the county board set a guideline of $38.1 million for the 1979-80 school budget, which would allow salaries to increase a maximum of 1.1 percent, according to Superintendent Larry Cuban.
In addition, he said,"There is a strong possibility that (the guideline figure) will go down."
The budget for the currect school year is $46.5 million; 83.7 percent of that goes to pay salaries and employee benefits.
To protest current school budget restrictions, about 175 persons packed the school board hearing room Monday night for a public hearing on school employe concerns. Standing three-deep in the back of the room and spilling out into the hallway, the crowd listened silently, as speaker after speaker demanded "Fair Play For Teachers," as the red buttons worn by most of the crowd proclaimed.
Part of the package requested by school employes involves an increase in pay "steps." Arlington teachers now receive yearly step-pay increases until they have taught 15 years. After that "step," teachers receive cost-of-living increases only.
"I question the basic rationale that level 15 is the step where you get no further raises," said Kay Gibson, a teacher at Glebe Elementary School, who has been teaching in Arlington for 13 years and taught in Fairfax for two. She questioned a system where teachers, who she said become more qualified with each year of experience, are not compensated for their services in line with their qualifications. "I think you should consider our problem in the light of discrimination," she said.
The teachers have requested that additional steps be added for the next five years, allowing a teacher to receive maximum salary after 20 years of service. Other groups of school employes also requested step increases. Estimated cost for step increases for teachers, as well as clerical, maintenance, and administrative personnel, would total $617,000.
"Do you really want to lose the people that most want to be there?" asked Marilyn Barrietta, a teacher at Yorktown High School, who said she had never come to the board with a complaint about pay. "I no longer wonder why some give up, but wonder why more don't. And that includes me."
Concern over pay increases for next year comes in the wake of the current increase of 5 percent over last year (a cut from the requested 7 percent) and a 2 percent increase the year before. During the past two years of "less than adequate salary adjustments," Arlington teachers have suffered an 8 percent loss in buying power, according to Florence Rosse, president of the Arlington Education Association, which represents 90 percent of the county teachers.
"Arlington has the most experienced and educated staff in (Virginia)," Rosse said. "The average teacher has at least 11 years of teaching experience and a master's degree or better." The average teacher's salary is $18,500 to $19,000, according to a school official.
"Please do not tell us you cannot afford us," Rosse said, "for the real fact of the matter is you cannot afford to be without us."
Sharon Steindam, principal of Barcroft Elementary School, said she had "deliberated a great deal as to whether it would be appropriate to share an administrator's point of view," in a meeting "devoted to employer-employe concerns."
Steindam said she saw a problem of decreasing morale related to lack of salary increase. She recalled a professor of hers who "maintained that strong teachers could carry a weak principal and make a school work, but in no way could the strongest, most dynamic principal carry a school if the teachers were weak.
"Thank goodness, at this time, our teachers are still strong," she said, but she warned that "teachers could become completely demoralized next year if their extrinsic reward is limited to a 1 percent salary increase.
"Therefore, I urge you to help all of us - teachers, administrators and especially children - by remembering the teachers when you are establishing your priorities for the 1978-80 school budget."
Steindam received a standing ovation.
Peter Moralis, director of Council 30 of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employes - AFL-CIO, spoke in behalf of the maintenance workers. The "12 percent pay raise that we asked for is justified," said Moralis, in light of the fact that some maintenance employes are making less than $4 per hour. A number of parents also spoke in support of the employes' requests.
The superintendent's budget recommendations will be presented to the school board in January, according to a school official. The board must present its final budget to the County Board for approval. A decision if expected in May.