About 200 representatives of Prince George's County teachers voted unanimously yesterday to reject the school board's most recent contract offer, in which the board said it would consider binding arbitration of grievances next year.
But the representatives also decided to allow the full membership--about 5,000 teachers--to vote on the board's offer in balloting to take place the rest of this week.
"Essentially they have given nothing, they have shown no movement," said Paul Pinsky, president of the Prince George's County Educators Association. Like other speakers, Pinsky accused the school board of "bad faith bargaining."
In recounting the six-month contract dispute, Pinsky said that teachers had agreed to forgo efforts to obtain a cost of living increase this year in exchange for binding arbitration in next year's contract, but the board would agree only to consider the issue next year.
"I don't know about you, but I think that's no offer," Pinsky told the group, which represented each of the county's schools.
School Board spokesman Brian Porter said that the board made its offer in good faith. "There is only one or two words separating the board and the union at this time," he said, "and that is whether to accept binding arbitration this year or to negotiate it as part of the contract for next year."
Porter said it was "unfortunate" that the union rejected the board's latest offer and that he did not know what steps the board will take now.
The contract covering the system's teachers expired Aug. 31. Although most provisions of the old contract have been continued for this school year, some, including the use of personal leave days, were continued only until Oct. 1, leaving some teachers concerned about the board's intentions.
"They're trying to push us into a strike," said Karen Kuker-Kihl, a faculty representative from University Park Elementary School and a longtime education activist. "They're trying to push us to the point where we have no other approach which is legal or rational. It's union busting."
But union board member Jeanette Gordy said the School Board is merely trying to push union members into making concessions.