Members and leaders of the District’s teacher’s union recently took to the streets to protest their lack of a pay increase for several years. Thirty members of the Washington Teachers’ Union, led by its president Elizabeth Davis, convened a rally at Freedom Plaza in downtown D.C. on March 3.
Elizabeth Davis, president of the Washington Teachers’ Union, says that D.C. educators are being treated unfairly. (Courtesy Photo)
“Teachers in the District of Columbia haven’t had a cost of living increase since 2012,” Davis told the AFRO. “That’s five years without a pay increase and prices on things have gone up since then.” She said that educators in the District’s public school system are being treated unfairly and they won’t tolerate it.
The union and District’s school system management are in the negotiating stage but there are some points of contention. The teachers want the IMPACT system, the educator assessment process created by school system brass without union or public input, scrapped and more money for teachers based on seniority and experience.
Salary.com, a site that tracks compensation of various professions, says the average District public school teacher makes $58,120 as of Feb. 17, and the salary range is $50,736 – $67,103. Davis said teachers’ salaries are deceptively high.
“D.C. officials say that D.C. teachers are among the highest paid in the nation but that’s not true considering that this city is one of the most expensive places to live in the country,” she said. “Half of our teachers live in Maryland or Virginia because they can’t afford to live in the city.”
The publication, Business Insider in its March 12, 2016 edition ranked the District as the fifth most expensive city in the country based on housing, transportation, utilities, private schools, and entertainment.
Davis said that money isn’t the problem. “The city is doing well financially but teachers have gotten a zero percent pay raise and no retroactivity ,” she said.
The new school’s chancellor, Antwan Wilson, in a Feb. 1 news conference and a subsequent Feb. 8 media roundtable, stressed his eagerness to negotiate a contract with the teachers. However, Davis said that Wilson isn’t the problem. “Our focus isn’t on Antwan Wilson but Mayor Muriel Bowser,” she said. “Since the mayoral takeover of the school system in 2007, the mayor is the leader of the school system. That’s Muriel Bowser . . . She says she is the education mayor and she needs to show it.”
On Feb. 28, the District’s chief financial officer revealed the city’s revenues estimates were revised upward at $128.1 million and $100.8 million in fiscal years 2017 and 2018, respectively. Based on that data, Davis said “there is no excuse as to why teachers don’t get a pay increase.”
“We live in a city where our students are first but our teachers are last and that should not be,” she said.
Clydie Spann joined her colleagues by participating in the protest rally. She marched from Freedom Plaza to the John A. Wilson Building. “I am here with my colleagues to demand equal pay for teachers,” Spann told the AFRO. “We are public servants for our children. We should rightly compensate the teachers who put in the time to make sure that students are successful.”
Even “star” teachers, such as James Cunningham, the “2016 D.C. Teacher of the Year” participated in the protest. “I teach my students to stand up for what you believe,” the School Without Walls educator, said.