Teacher collective bargaining matters for our children

5ccc7ae3bdf94.image.jpg

Guest Opinion article by UEA President Liza Parkinson, originally appearing in the Press And Guide.

As the 2018-19 school year draws to a close, teachers and school administrators have begun the process of making sure the 2019-20 school year and beyond is focused on the goal of our children getting the best school experience possible through bargaining negotiations. These negotiations are commonly narrowly and inaccurately painted as budget discussions, and yes much of this is about money, but for our educators the prime focus is making sure we continue to have a valued voice in how our schools operate and how they perform.

While a number of administrative budget initiatives in past years have focused on increased technology, we strongly believe it’s the people in our schools and their impact on our students, who provide the most long-lasting benefit for our community. There is no technology, whether it be new software, computers or iPads which can replace the invaluable relationship our educators have with our children.

Utica Community Schools (UCS) teachers have personally given back to the administration more than should ever be expected of the professionals who have such a direct relationship to a child’s education. We have sacrificed $39 million in earned pay ($45 million when furlough days are counted), lending itself to a district reputation discouraging young talented teachers from working here and leading to a situation where veteran teachers are retiring early and moving to neighboring schools or starting second careers. As the President of Michigan’s second largest teachers’ union, representing over 1,400 professionals, I can tell you first-hand that this environment is not good for our schools and community.

We are working hard on proposing measures which are student-focused such as smaller classes, making sure state mandated professional development hours are relevant to all educators from music and gym to calculus, an action plan which supports students who teachers identify as severely dysregulated and language assuring we have enough educators for our children with physical and special needs. UCS is drastically understaffed with only 13.5 social workers and six school psychologists available to meet the needs of 27,000 students. We are also adamant that our children are able to read by the third grade, as mandated by the state, and have proposed a detailed plan which supports parents and families in meeting this important goal.

We are ever optimistic and sincerely hope that the UCS administration and the community we serve, agrees with our student-focused bargaining agenda.

Liza Parkinson is President of the Utica Education Association. Article originally published in the Press And Guide.