The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

D.C. teachers protest salaries and failed contract negotiations

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Dozens of teachers called on D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson on Thursday morning to negotiate a fair contract with their union and give city teachers their first collective raise since 2012.

The teachers — all from Woodrow Wilson High School, Alice Deal Middle School and Ben W. Murch Elementary School in Ward 3 — protested in the upper Northwest neighborhood of Tenleytown. They demanded that the chancellor show appreciation for teachers this “Teacher Appreciation Week” by striking an agreement with the Washington Teachers’ Union.

“No contract equals no appreciation,” they chanted.

The previous contract lapsed in 2012, and since then, the school system’s 3,500 teachers have operated without one. That means they have received no base-level raises. Many teachers have received bonuses for strong results in the classroom, and teachers can still meet higher income thresholds after they work in the system for a certain number of years or earn more diplomas.

Elizabeth Davis, president of the Washington Teachers’ Union, said the teachers are fighting for retroactive pay raises and a significant hike going forward. She said the school system in recent negotiations offered only a 1 percent raise starting in two academic years, which the union rejected. Negotiations have since stalled, according to Davis.

“The message is for the chancellor to come back to the bargaining table to finish the contract,” Davis said of the protest.

The school agency would not confirm the number cited by Davis and said it’s against policy to talk about what happened in negotiations.

“D.C. Public Schools [system] has been working in good faith to negotiate a new contract for our teachers for the last several years,” Michelle Lerner, a school spokesperson, wrote in an email. “We are disappointed that we have not made more progress to date but we hope to resume negotiations in the near future.”

The union said that these three schools expressed interest in organizing the protest and that similar protests may soon be planned at more schools throughout the city. The protest started at 7 a.m. Thursday, and teachers were in their classrooms by the start of the school day.