Utica Teachers have done their part, now it's time for UCS to do theirs.

UEA Worried Good Teachers will Keep Leaving District and Profession if Changes Aren’t Made

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UTICA, Michigan, March 7, 2019 — As Utica Community Schools (UCS) heads into the home stretch of the 2018–19 school year, teachers are concerned that what awaits them in the next school year negotiation is more of the same. UCS teachers have not had an increase in their salary schedule in nearly a decade, and have given more than $6 million back to the District in the last 18 months in furloughs and voluntary health care concessions alone. Even more daunting, District teachers have now sacrificed more than $39 million, which they will never recover, due to full or partially frozen salary steps in 6 of the past 9 years. “Steps” are incremental wage increases promised in the teacher contract.

“We’ve lost on average $2,300 per teacher in just the last 18 months alone due to furlough days by the District,” said Utica Education Association President, Liza Parkinson who represents the District’s 1,400 teachers. “We are asking that our teachers get the pay they earned through their dedicated time of service to the District and our children. First-year teachers in our District earn $39,300 a year, the same salary they’ve earned since the 2009–10 school year.” Parkinson added, “How do we attract and keep good teachers in the District when their work is not recognized in their paychecks?”

A December survey of UEA members showed that 76% of the respondents were considering leaving the teaching profession because of wage stagnation, lack of support/respect and working conditions. There have also been many teachers and administrators over the past few years who have left UCS for other District jobs in Michigan.

Among the teachers who have left is Shalyn Fortuna who is now teaching in the Troy School District after a frustrating experience teaching at UCS “where I was being paid at a year-two Bachelor’s degree level when I should have been paid at a year-four Master’s Degree level. I just couldn’t afford to stay.” She also expressed frustration at the divide between the day-to-day school operations and the distance UCS Superintendent Dr. Christine Johns keeps from the teachers and students. “Our superintendent in Troy walks through the school buildings on a regular basis, reads to the kids in their classroom and buys lunches for new teachers. The kids had no idea at UCS who Dr. Johns was and I would never dare sit next to her in a lunchroom.”

In the UEA December survey, a number of additional issues were also revealed which caused great concern for the membership, contributing to an overall lack of morale. Among the concerns was that over 98% expressed that they spend up to $1,000 per year on school supplies not provided by the District.

During the last set of negotiations, which carried on over 11 months and were finally ratified early in 2018, the UEA offered to restructure the salary schedule for long-term savings and sustainability — an option that was shot down by the District along with numerous additional cost saving measures offered by the Association. Ultimately, Utica’s teachers ratified a contract with step freezes and furlough (unpaid) days. “We’ve done our part. It’s time for UCS to stop spending money recklessly, adding programs with unsustainable funding and begin partnering with their employees and making smart decisions that are in the best interest of our community and the District’s students,” said Parkinson.

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Utica Education Association (UEA) is a group of professional educators serving our community in southeastern Michigan. You can follow along for more information at our Facebook page at http://www.facebookcom/UticaEducationAssociation