South Burlington teachers to make even more money than average Vermonters

TEACHER GREED: Teachers in South Burlington walked out on school kids last week as a way to obtain pay far beyond what average Vermonters make.

By Bruce Parker | Vermont Watchdog

SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. — While details of an agreement reached Saturday between striking teachers and the South Burlington school board weren’t immediately disclosed, average Vermonters can be certain of one thing: South Burlington public school teachers are going to make even more money than they do.

Mediator Joseph McNeil announced Saturday the South Burlington School Board and the South Burlington Educators Association reached a tentative agreement over wages and benefits.

While details won’t be released ahead of key votes Monday by the teachers union and the board, the announcement means kids held hostage in last week’s teachers strike will be able to return to classroom learning.

More than 200 South Burlington teachers went on strike Oct. 14 after South Burlington Educators Association filed an unfair labor practice charge against the city’s school board. The teachers union demanded a salary increase of 10.2 percent over three years and claimed the school board circumvented the bargaining by trying to negotiate directly with teachers. The board offered a counterproposal of a 7.6 percent salary increase.

The average salary for South Burlington teachers is about $74,000 — the highest teachers pay in the state. By contrast, the average salary for all Vermonters is $40,203, according to census data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Teacher pay is based on a nine-month work year, or a 189 days of work. If extrapolated to a 12-month work year, South Burlington teachers would earn $98,664 annually.

Between 2009 and 2012, the average salary in Vermont rose between 1.8 percent and 2.2 percent annually. Teachers in South Burlington are demanding annual raises of more than 3 percent.

Despite making much higher pay and demanding higher annual increases, picketing teachers this week carried signs saying “Support Your Teachers” and “Bargain with Us.” The visual was especially troubling to residents of South Burlington, who have seen their property taxes rise 13 percent over the past two years to cover the cost of education.

Gov. Peter Shumlin last week proposed outlawing teacher strikes in favor of mandatory binding arbitration, an idea generally supported by the National Educators Association but opposed by the Vermont School Boards Association.

Rob Roper, president of the Ethan Allen Institute, said the strike underscores the need for education reform in Vermont.

“The strike is another illustration of why we need school choice in Vermont. It’s not right that we have a system where parents, families and whole communities can be held hostage by a union,” Roper said.

“Are these teachers getting what they deserve because they provide us superior service and demonstrate their value, or because they brought chaos to their neighborhood and refused to stop until they extracted their tribute?”

Roper added that instead of accepting the current system where teachers can pressure parents and taxpayers with bullying tactics, school choice would allow parents to take their kids to another school if teacher demands got out of control.

“We need to level the playing field. If teachers can walk away from parents, parents should be empowered to take their kids, with the money following the child, to another school. It’s only fair,” he said.

Lori Dow-Moore, a foreign language teacher at South Burlington High School, said the negotiations had been “an arduous process.” While she and other teachers had not heard any details of the deal, Dow-More said, “I have full faith in our negotiating team.”

According to a written statement from McNeil issued late Saturday, the tentative agreement is subject to ratification Monday by both the teachers union and the school board.

Contact Bruce Parker at bparker@watchdog.org

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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