There were many interesting twists in last night’s budget hearing at the MPS School Board. When MTEA members started pouring into central office at around 6pm, the auditorium was already partially filled with dozens of principals and administrators who were directed by their supervisors to come to the meeting and speak in support of the administration’s proposed budget. Because of the large number of administrators present, over a hundred MTEA members and supporters were sent to an overflow room to listen to the hearing.
MTEA members’ testimony was interspersed throughout the night with rosy reports from principals about how supportive the budget is for students. MTEA president Bob Peterson noted: “if state legislators are listening to the principals’ testimony at this hearing, they are going to think that everything is fine with the budget. It is not.”
MTEA members, while supportive of many aspects of the budget, focused our testimony on the need to pass a budget that attracts and retains great educators by converting last fall’s EA bonus to a raise, honoring the salary steps for teachers that the administration and school board agreed to last year, and placing social workers, nurses, and physical therapists on a salary schedule.
Paraprofessional Marcelia Nicholson gave moving testimony about her decision to become a teacher next year and asked the board to “please, please, prioritize our students by creating a budget that will attract and retain great teachers…The reality is that I am pursing a teaching certification because there are little boys and girls that look like me and deserve someone that is passionate and understanding. They deserve a teacher that has lived in the same poor neighborhoods because I know what it means to face adversity. They deserve teachers that are committed to their communities, and to the families that need us.”
Throughout the hearing, the passion and dedication of MTEA members came through clearly. Several MTEA leaders addressed the administration’s attempt to divide and conquer by pitting principals against teachers. MTEA secretary Ingrid Walker-Henry said: “I need the school board to take a look at the people behind me. We should all be one MPS. The real fight is not in this room. It is with those who do not value what we do every day. The fastest way for us to fail is to continue to widen the rift that started a long time ago. Disagreement is only natural, but working against each other is unacceptable. EVERY person in this room deserves a raise. EAs, Teachers, and Administrators; we all work hard with the students. It makes no sense that Administrators haven’t seen a raise in 6 years. EAs make less than $20,000 and have to wonder how they will make ends meet. AND teachers, the ones who work with the kids every day, deserve compensation for the work they do. Stop with the division. Do what’s right because when you look out tonight, know that this is your army. We will be the ones defending public education with you.”
Although no principal mentioned raises or career ladders in their testimony, MTEA vice president-elect Amy Mizialko spoke up for them when she testified that “the principals in this room and all of the students at our schools have benefitted from teachers like me and my fellow MTEA members who have made teaching in MPS a career, because there has been a clear path of advancement with yearly step increases. I don’t believe that the principals in this room truly want a budget that will guarantee a teaching force that is temporary and transient. The teachers and educational assistants in this room are the first responders to the children of this district. And without a committed, experienced cadre of first responders, this board will fail our children.”
Members are encouraged to attend and testify at the next (and final) budget hearing on Thursday, May 28. The board is expected to consider an amendment to fund the teacher salary schedule and an amendment to convert last fall’s EA bonus to a raise, among others.