Teachers at Lord Baltimore Elementary School participated in Bell to Bell Week on Tuesday, May 19, and Wednesday, May 20, as a show of solidarity against Gov. Jack Markell’s proposed 8 percent pay cut to state workers, including public school teachers.
The Delaware State Education Association’s position on the proposed pay cuts is clear: “Cutting education and other core state services will not grow our economy, and is irresponsible and unfair,” they state on their Web site.
Nancy Ward, a member of the Indian River Education Association and the Delaware State Education Association (DSEA), and a guidance counselor at Lord Baltimore, said rallies and meetings have been held all over the state to protest these cuts.
In addition to the “Bell to Bell” week, in which teachers were asked to come in and leave together at the beginning and end of the contract work day, to show the impact they make as an entity, there was a week in which state workers were asked to wear red in unity and had a breakfast for legislators.
According to the DSEA, the budget proposal includes an 8 percent pay cut for all school employees (from the state portion of their pay), worth $90 million in total; three professional development days eliminated from the school calendar, as days off without pay; no step pay increases for next year for any school employees; and elimination of the “double state share” for those families in which both spouses are state employees.
For state merit employees, the budget also calls for the continued freeze of all career ladder promotions, as begun last year, and replacing three existing state holidays with three floating holidays in order to reduce holiday and premium pay expenses for essential employees. In addition, the State Employee Benefits Committee has voted to increase by 50 percent the monthly contributions employees make toward insurance premiums.
Ward said that, as a teacher, she already works her school day and spends at hours at home on Sundays gearing up for the next work week. She said that, although the proposal will affect all state workers, the things that affect the teachers affect everyone in the community.
While students may be looking forward to a summer away from their school duties, Ward noted that teachers have often spent their summers on professional improvement. She said that, since coming to the district 26 years ago with a bachelor’s degree plus 45 credits, she has also taken summer classes to earn her master’s degree, plus more than 60 credits in guidance and math.
Ward said she had planned to spend this summer continuing to write LB’s new weekly guidance lessons curriculum and spend at least one day per week in her classroom for free, but the proposed pay cut may alter those plans.
“With the pay cut looming, I may have to put these plans on hold,” she said. “Instead of improving my professional duties, I may have to get a summer job to bring in the money that will be cut from my paycheck next year.”
Her plans may be different next summer, as well.
“If the state cuts my paycheck by 8 percent next year, I’ll be looking to teach summer school for the first time in 28 years of teaching,” said Ward.