New PWEA President Advocates Competitive Wages for Teachers

| October 3, 2012 | 0 Comments | Education

PWEA President Jim Livingston works with the Prince William administration, School Board and petitions the General Assembly in Richmond on behalf of Prince William educators.

At a recent meeting of the Prince William County School Board, Chairman At-Large Milt Johns declared that funding teacher raises will be a priority in future budgets.

However, new Prince William Education Association (PWEA)  president Jim Livingston, a fixture during “Citizen’s Time” at School Board meetings, intends to continue advocating for fair teacher compensation and ensuring  they are truly considered during the forthcoming budget process.

“We’re in a position in Northern Virginia where the labor force within education is very competitive,” said Livingston.

Because of the competitiveness of the industry, Livingston believes that Prince William County needs to keep its pay competitive to keep high quality teachers in the district and attract new talent as well. However, he is also fighting for the individual teachers.

“We are advocating for what is best for our members. Many of our members are heads of single parent households, young teachers or new teachers coming into the profession. It is very difficult to live and work on what those people take home,” said Livingston.

Since there is no guarantee that pay raises will be funded in the next budget, Livingston feels the PWEA has to be active.

“We’re in the people business,” said Livingston, with “82,000 kids, and 10,000 employees. We need to start looking at this from a teacher perspective. Our responsibility is educating children; children need to be at the top of the list, but right under that should be the teachers.”

However, while the School Board recently agreed to aggressively search for funds for teacher pay increases in their next five-year plan, Livingston encourages educators and citizens to remain vigilant to see that they follow through on that commitment.

“They’re looking at a five-year plan scenario that is nonbinding. I would hope that the folks that do control the revenue, would take a serious look at priorities, because in Prince William County, we continue to spend less per student than any school system surrounding us.”

Livingston knows that when it comes to the budget there are many funding sources, but often those tributaries are cut in times of fiscal crisis. These major tributaries include the Board of County Supervisors, the General Assembly in Richmond and Congress.

“Quite frankly in the last few years, especially in regard to congress and the General Assembly in Richmond, we have not seen as favorable a treatment of public education that we have seen in the past,” said Livingston.

Furthermore, Livingston said he rejects the idea that providing teacher raises would result in layoffs or a further increase in class sizes, saying it is not a realistic concern since, “We have reached state maximums in the number of kids we can put in each classroom.”

He hopes that more Prince William educators will join the PWEA and support them in their efforts to secure fair and competitive pay and comfortable working conditions for teachers. While he is happy to see teachers advocating for themselves,  he feels as though the association is the best means to achieve their goals.

He points out that a two percent raise would have been better for a greater number of school district employees than the step-increase they received instead.

“All of our members would have benefited by an increase of two percent. Unfortunately, with a step increase some people did get more than two percent, but a large percentage got less than two percent, and a very large number of people got no increase at all,” said Livingston.

While both the PWEA and the School Board favored two percent pay raises, individual teachers networking through social media favored step-increases.

However, Livingston is also critical of the School Board for how they initiating a 30-minute increase in the school day without prior discussion on the subject. He would have preferred if the School Board had entered discussions with the PWEA,

“There’s never a down side to having the conversation. There are a lot of people who are not happy, a lot of people who will continue to carry some of that resentment,” Livingston said.

He also urges citizens to celebrate rather than vilifying educators. He reminds PWC residents that in a bad economy it is the teachers who teach more children for less money.

“Our members do that every day. They go to work every day they plan. They’re collaborating. They’re working in teams and they’re trying to find ways to help all of those kids with all of those issues. These are folks that need to be supported, need to be applauded, need to be thanked.”

© 2012, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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