Boyd Co. teachers complain about pay, workload, raise the issue of collective bargaining; KEA rep says several steps must come before that is considered

Independent, Ashland, April 29, 2016

Boyd teachers may seek collective bargaining

Teachers in the Boyd County district may seek recognition for collective bargaining in order to resolve complaints of overwork and inadequate pay, a faculty representative said.

The district’s teachers are overworked and underpaid, are pressured to do required work on their own time and to complete more professional development training than the state requires, according to Melissa Conley, a Ponderosa Elementary teacher who is president of the Boyd Education Association.

The BEA is the district’s chapter of the Kentucky Education Association, a professional and advocacy organization for teachers.

Boyd teacher pay is near the bottom in the region and raises, other than cost of living and the increases associated with advances in education and professional status, have been nonexistent for about five years, Conley said.

Conley presented a lengthy list of issues to the school board earlier this week. Among them:

n Teachers are routinely working late and on weekends to do required tasks.

n They are pressured to take on an average of twice as much professional development as the 24 hours per year the state requires.

n 100-day contracts, under which the district puts retired teachers in classrooms rather than hire full-time, permanent staff. The BEA’s position is that the open positions should be filled by full-time teachers.

n Not enough teacher input on professional development. Teachers need more training on social issues like identifying child abuse and suicide prevention, Conley said.

Teacher morale is low in the district, she said.

Conley called for the board to grant teacher raises and said the district’s administrative staff is top-heavy and budget trimming should start there.

“We have teachers that have to choose between paying student loans and their electric bills,” she wrote in a message to The Daily Independent. Others are single parents who qualify for government assistance.

Conley said teachers are pressured to work overtime for the sake of children and their dedication is called into question if they resist. “A nurse would never be asked to work overtime for free because her passion is patients, yet we as teachers are constantly told we need to be working overtime for free if our passion is our students.”

Boyd teachers are not yet close to seeking a collective bargaining contract with the district, according to LuAnn Asbury, the KEA’s district representative.

Several steps would precede bargaining, among them seeking recognition from the board as a bargaining unit.

Under Kentucky law employers of public workers, such as the school board, are not required to bargain collectively. State law also prohibits public employees from striking.

Teacher representatives would need to study the budget to identify where money could be available for raises, and would want to survey members, Asbury said. “We want to be sure everybody has a working knowledge of the budget and move on from there,” she said.

The board isn’t ready to say if or to what extent it will grant the teachers’ requests, chairman Bob Green said. “It will be taken into account. We will have to sit down with the budget and see what’s available and what’s going to be available,” he said. “We certainly want our teachers to be happy.”

Much of the pressure on teachers is coming from the state, Green said. “The state puts on more each year and that gets passed along. More is being asked of teachers these days.”

He said he hasn’t discussed collective bargaining with the board or Superintendent Brock Walter yet.

Walter said at least one BEA concern has been addressed, that over the past two years he has trimmed several positions from the central office.

Walter declined to comment on bargaining but praised district teachers in a general sense. “We have a good staff all the way through and with dwindling state and local funding we are maintaining high-quality education.”

Asbury said the board declined comment after Conley’s presentation. “I didn’t feel there was any animosity but no one commented; they just moved on with the agenda.”

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