Teachers Stand Up Against MoCo Budget Cuts

Sherwood staff Gloria Condelli, Mary Thomas, Jodie Friedman, Barbara Hueter, Bonnie Sarf,and Victoria Mannina attend a rally on March 14 in Annapolis for retirement security and the prevention of budget cuts. Photo courtesy of Barbara Hueter

Sherwood staff Gloria Condelli, Mary Thomas, Jodie Friedman, Barbara Hueter, Bonnie Sarf,and Victoria Mannina attend a rally on March 14 in Annapolis for retirement security and the prevention of budget cuts. Photo courtesy of Barbara Hueter

by Olivia Snyder ’12

Recent cuts to MCPS’s budget have angered numerous teachers, including many at Sherwood. Some teachers, driven by a belief of injustice, are speaking and acting out against the county’s budget. Numerous Sherwood teachers have joined other educators around the county to participate in “grade-ins” and marches to raise community awareness as the County Council determined next year’s budget.

“We’re angry because we don’t feel the pain is being fairly shared. Teachers have already given up our pay raises yet we’re still being asked to give up more than other sectors,” said English teacher Gloria Condelli, head building representative for the Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA). “Teachers are being forced to carry more of the budget-cut burden.”

Teachers do not get overtime like other civil workers do, so while other county professions such as police and firefighters can make up for money lost from pay cuts, teachers cannot.

Because educators will be hit the hardest by these cuts, many teachers belonging to MCEA are taking a stand. In addition to “grade-ins” and marches, hundreds of teachers have written letters to congressmen, senators and county council members regarding their dissatisfaction over budget cuts.

“We’re frustrated because of course, we need to make a living for ourselves, but it’s really about the students’ learning conditions,” said Condelli. “If we lose teachers, class sizes go up, and the amount of one-on-one attention teachers can give to students will go down. The classroom is really going to suffer.”

The final budget was decided on June 2, and to many teachers’ relief, cuts were not as harsh as had been expected. Teachers’ pensions were raised by two percent and neither raises nor annual salary step increases were given, but health benefits remain the same. Certain extracurricular programs like athletics will face cuts. Nine school technology support positions will be eliminated, money allotted for school equipment and resources will be reduced and special education funds will be cut.

“I think the public needs to understand that MCPS has made enormous progress in education over the years. But those gains came about not just from hard work, but also from increased funding,” said Spanish teacher Barbara Hueter. “So when you make cuts such as the ones that have been made, it is wrong to say that those cuts will not affect the classroom and the students. They will, and they will affect the quality of education that MCPS prides itself on.”

As the County Council considered cuts prior to its final decision, many Sherwood teachers, angry over the proposed cuts and the impacts they may have on Sherwood and their own families, took part in organized protests. “I participated in a rally on county council to call attention to funding,” said science teacher Glenn Miller, a Sherwood MCEA representative. “Educators and their families participated and marched. We like to think it made some sort of impact, but one can never really tell.”

To challenge the belief that educators’ “easy” workday ends at 2:40 pm, some Sherwood teachers also participated in grade-ins around the county. Teachers set up tables in local malls on which to grade their students’ papers in order to show that their work day is much longer than a regular school day. What much of the community does not realize is the work that teachers regularly take home with them.

“People think our jobs are cushy because of the short school day. But the public doesn’t realize how much overtime we really have to work; overtime that we don’t actually get paid for,” said Miller. “We already volunteered to give up our raises, but we can’t afford to lose our other benefits. We have families to support too.”

 

 

 

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