The students of Prince William County Public Schools deserve fully staffed schools. On August 18, 2023, the Prince William County Education Association (PWEA) submitted a wage proposal that would allow our teachers to live, work, and thrive in our community.
The PWEA submitted a contract that could help prevent your child’s teachers from fleeing our schools to higher-paid school divisions in the region. PWEA’s initial proposal provided a 17% pay increase for both educators and support staff. The proposal also provided for higher compensation for coaching duties, as we recognize how important athletics are to so many of our local families. The PWEA knew the number was high, but we owed our members a compensation proposal that would be meaningful to our 11,000 struggling educators across the school division.
Thirty-five thousand per year, while working full time, is not a livable wage. Unfortunately, one of the dedicated people who drive your students to and from school every day relies on that salary. Oddly enough, on the PWCS website, it states that an individual at that bus driver’s pay grade and step is earning $52,000. Sadly, it took hours to unveil that all salary schedules for our classified staff were based on the ability to work 250 days per year. The truth is that many of our classified staff are not hired to work that many days per year and can never reach their earning potential based on that 250-day schedule.
PWEA provided an initial proposal to start a discussion with the division, with the goal of beginning meaningful negotiations and eventually allowing both sides to come to a mutually satisfactory agreement. PWCS appears to have a different viewpoint as to the goal of negotiations. Upon presentation of their counter proposal, we were informed it was their “first, best, and final offer.” We have been denied compromise, discussion, and meaningful dialogue.
When one side claims absolute authority and dictates their decisions to the other side, they have by definition refused to negotiate. They have revealed that the “bargaining table” they constructed was essentially an illusion, and that the actual process amounts to a preview of the budget that the School Board intended to pass anyway. The first, last, and final pay-scale “proposal” the division presented amounts to a raise of just over 5% for the vast majority of employees. This offer fails to provide educators with acceptable pay, especially when compared to surrounding school divisions.
PWCS must return to the table and commit to meaningful negotiation work, or risk the continued exodus of our educators to neighboring districts, where they will earn more and have better benefits. PWCS educators, staff, and students all desperately need the board to work harder and negotiate in good faith in order to reach a mutually agreeable contract, for the sake of our students and our community.Maggie Hansford