Loudoun Education Association asks for ‘living wage’ for all employees
The main concerns LEA members presented to the board include giving teachers and staff a “living wage,” reducing the cost of benefits, making wages for mid-level teachers more fair, reducing class size, providing sufficient work materials and giving teachers the time they need to work with students.
“A salary increase continues to be critical for employees as the cost of living has increased,” said Sandy Sullivan, vice president of LEA. “In order to remain competitive with our surrounding counties, we must adequately compensate our employees with commensurate salaries.”
According to the nonprofit LEA, 52 percent of the LCPS staff surveyed said they had a second job or were seeking other work to make ends meet.
“Despite the pay increase in the current budget year, the increased cost of health insurance coupled with higher deductibles have eroded any increase in pay for many employees,” said Carl MacKey, a physical education teacher at Belmont Ridge Middle School. “In Fairfax, all benefits-eligible employees in active status pay the same rates, regardless if they are part-time or full-time. The health insurance rates for classified employees are proportionally larger based on their wages compared to other employees.”
Mary Hughes, a counselor at Ball's Bluff Elementary School, spoke to the School Board about how new administrative tasks pull teachers away from instruction.
“Expectations have changed for our teachers with too many new initiatives and the increasing use of semi-reliable technology, time spent creating lessons, and time keeping up with parent emails are increasing the stress on all of our staff,” she said. “This is leading to more sick leave and perhaps fueling our current teacher shortage.”
Hughes continued, “For counselors like me, the large caseload and the lack of school resources may be putting our children in harm’s way. Too many of our counselors at the elementary level are being pulled to sub for missing teachers due to a lack of coverage.”
LEA recommends the School Board “aggressively monitor” things like teacher planning time in order to ensure staff has time to prepare for instruction and they aren’t interrupted frequently.
The nonprofit also asks school counselors and reading specialists not be pulled away from their duties to fill in as substitutes in other capacities.
Tim Brown, a Spanish teacher at Woodgrove High School, asked the School Board to take high-needs students into consideration when calculating class size.
“The time spent with each student is greatly diminished when classes are overcrowded,” said Brown. “We encourage the development of standards to allow the class make up to be a factor in reducing class size. Students who require more of the teacher’s time and attention should not be counted as a single student in the computation of class size.”
Brown also noted that LCPS hasn’t bought new textbooks for most subjects for several years. The loss of supplemental teaching materials that come with new books “has placed a significant strain on teacher planning time and equipment,” he said.
Cutting 12 technology assistants last year has meant many teachers have to prepare two lesson plans now, said Brown.
“[We prepare] one [lesson plan] utilizing technology and top quality material, and an alternate 'contingency' lesson plan that increasingly is becoming the lesson plan that is used,” he said. “Plan B is taking the place of the preferred 'Plan A' when equipment and materials are not readily accessible.”
LEA also recommends the School Board restore other lost support positions like deans and English Language Learners assistants.
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