The Prince William Education Association collects enough signatures to form a collective bargaining unit

Teachers from the Prince William Education Association announced on Wednesday evening that they had collected the signatures needed to form a collective bargaining unit.

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Teachers from the Prince William Education Association announced on Wednesday evening that they had collected the signatures needed to form a collective bargaining unit. This decision gives the school board 120 days to pass or refuse a collective bargaining resolution.

PWEA has started its drive for signatures in January, following a state law that took effect last year allowing public sector collective bargaining in Virginia for the first time since the 1970s. Already, teachers in Richmond and Loudoun County have submitted signatures to form collective bargaining units. Prince William County police and firefighters have also submitted petitions for collective bargaining units to the County Board of Supervisors.

“We all know that to recruit and retain the best employees for our students, we need to compensate them fairly,” Hansford told the school board Wednesday night. “Our educators, bus drivers, custodians, librarians, special education assistants, homeless, social workers, school psychologists, nurses, secretaries and every staff member at Prince William County schools help our students thrive and reach their full potential. We are so proud to be in front of you tonight, and you [Superintendent Latanya] McDade, in this historic partnership.

Hansford declined to say whether teachers were the only school staff group that would be included in the collective bargaining unit, or whether other groups like custodial, restaurant or transportation staff would be included. To form a collective bargaining unit, the union must collect the supporting signatures of more than 50% of the staff it represents.

So far this year, teachers have won a number of new concessions from the district, such as compensation for time spent waiting on short-staffed buses to pick up students after school and extra pay for planning periods lost for replacement tasks or administrative meetings. Meanwhile, the school board’s budget for the current fiscal year included a salary increase of about 5% for the county’s average teacher, while the fiscal year 2023 budget — which the school board approved Wednesday night – provides an average salary increase of 7% for teachers, according to McDade.

Still, teacher salaries in Prince William remain lower than in other northern Virginia communities on average. And teachers say their colleagues are leaving the profession due to inadequate pay and extra workloads due to a teacher shortage that existed before the pandemic but has only worsened since 2020. According to the latest salary survey conducted by the Virginia Department of Education, the average salary for a Prince William teacher in fiscal year 2021 was $70,281.

In interviews with InsideNoVa over the winter, teachers said the hope was to make Prince William competitive with other jurisdictions like Fairfax, Arlington and Loudoun by increasing teacher salaries and giving educators a greater voice in the budgeting process to make division administrators more responsive to teachers’ needs. . At Wednesday night’s school board meeting, a group of more than 20 PWEA members wore shirts that read “A PLACE AT THE TABLE.”

PWEA members have also said they plan to negotiate more than just a pay rise, such as more counseling and social work staff which can ease some of the burden on teachers.

“If I’m teaching a class of 32 high school students and one of my students is having emotional difficulties that day…they need help right away,” Brandie Provenzano, a school teacher, told InsideNoVa. language arts at Battlefield High School in January. “Is it going to come from me? I have 31 students in the class waiting. Or is there an advisor available? But the counselors are all busy because we are understaffed. … When we talk about resources, I’m talking about people.

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Andrew B. Reiter