The president of Fairfax County's largest teacher organization recommended yesterday that the group call off its controversial, seven-month long job action because of a school administration promise to seek a 10.4 percent increase in teacher pay next year.
Directors of the Fairfax Education Association, which represents 6,500 of the county's 7,154 teachers, however, delayed until Jan. 9 a decision on their president's proposal.
Association president Gerry Gripper said the board wanted to await release of the school administration's proposed budget before voting on whether to end the group's work-to-the-rule job action. The association voted in April to urge its members to perform only required classroom work and to shun any extracurricular work not required by their contracts.
There has been much controversy in the school system, the largest in the Washington area, over the effectiveness of the job action. Supporters of the job action had noted that since Virginia teachers are barred from engaging in collective bargaining, it was one of the only ways teachers could protest the 5.15 percent salary increase they received in July.
FEA members had voted in August to continue working to the rule until "significant progress" was made toward granting the teachers an across-the-board pay increase to supplement the 5.15 percent raise.
According to Gripper, that criterion was met Thursday when the school administration agreed to seek the 10.4 percent increase -- half the 20 percent increase that the association sought. The increase still must win approval of the school board and the county supervisors.
When asked about the likelihood that the proposed pay raise could be blocked by either board, Gripper said he had recommended an end to the job action "as a sign of good faith on the part of the county's teachers."
"This proves the point that we were able to reach an agreement which is beneficial to both the FEA and the FCPS [Fairfax County Public Schools]," said Gripper. "The people who painted us as wild-eyed radicals because of our initial proposal should know we got what wanted and we did it without bankrupting the system.
"We estimate that the increase will bring 90 percent of the teachers right up to the level of the cost of living," Gripper said yesterday.
In addition to salaries, the school administration has agreed to form committees to study the feasibility of paying elementary school teachers for extracurricular activities and to examine the possibility of obtaining liability insurance for teachers.
"The whole matter of legal insurance is becoming more and more of a concern to teachers," said Warren Eisenhower, director of school-employe relations for the county and participant representing the school system in discussions with the teachers group. "There is an increasing tendency to sue and teachers feel they need protection against it."
The job action by Fairfax County teachers last spring preceded similar protests in other Northern Virginia jurisdictions but only Arlington teachers still are engaged in a work-to-the rule action.
Eisenhower said last night the 10.4 percent pay raise would cost approximately $30 million a year if given to all county workers, including employes outside the school system.
School board member Robert Smith said last night it was too early to tell whether the pay increase proposal will pass the board. "It's hard to say . . . certainly we want to give our professional staff the biggest increase possible, he said. "The other side is that the budget has been awfully lean on other programs. We have to balance off the needs of the system against available funds."
He noted that the supervisors have pending a request for an immediate 1.85 percent pay increase. If the supervisors approve that increase in January, Smith said it would decrease pressure on the county for a higher pay increase later in the year.