Yesterday, teachers rallied outside the Madison Metropolitan School District administration building downtown. The event was organized by Madison Teachers Inc, the union that represents MMSD teachers — and it came after the omission of scheduled salary increases from teachers’ annual contracts.
In an emailed statement to WORT, district spokesperson Tim LeMonds wrote that the administration is waiting until the Madison School Board approves the 2022-2023 preliminary budget before determining the pay raises.
Cindy Law — a teacher at Jefferson Middle School — said yesterday that signing the contracts as they stand is essentially signing a blank agreement.
“It’s not what a contract is supposed to be. A contract is supposed to be an agreement, and we don’t even know what we’re agreeing to,” Law told WORT.
On Friday, the teachers union filed a formal grievance against the district and told members to withhold their contracts until further notice. The state-mandated deadline for returning the annual contract is June 15.
But, the school board isn’t scheduled to vote on the preliminary budget until the end of June. According to the Capital Times, if teachers don’t return their contracts by the mid-June deadline, their positions get marked as vacant.
The school board is unlikely to take up the preliminary budget ahead of schedule. The district is still waiting for details on state and federal financial aid, which is likely to come sometime in the next six weeks.
Lemonds wrote that, “Changing the budgetary hearing and meeting schedule would require the board to be able to forecast the district’s financial picture at an earlier point in time.” He says that could lead to inaccurate predictions, and potentially reducing teachers’ pay raises after they’ve been agreed upon.
Many teachers who spoke with WORT yesterday described the pay raise omission as disrespectful. MTI’s leaders have pointed out that determining pay raises ahead of budget approval has never been an issue in the past.
Kristin Brown, a teacher at East High School, called the contracts a “slap in the face.”
“We’re working so hard during this pandemic, and I feel like they’re just trying to wear us down and think ‘Oh, they won’t protest this thing we’re doing now.’ Ultimately, what we do for teachers will translate to what we can do for kids,” Brown said.
Andrea Missureli, the union’s incoming Vice President, said that the contracts are the latest in a series of problematic actions taken by the district during the pandemic. That includes changes to layoff policies and the decision to return to in-person education — despite reservations from teachers.
“There’s been a lot of mistrust in the past year,” she said. “It’s tiring, we’re tired of it. Come work with us, we want to spend our energy on the kids and making our school district better.”
MTI says it will be investigating potential legal actions against the district unless the contracts are reissued with the anticipated pay raises.
(PHOTO: Jonah Chester)