RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Dozens of teachers attended Monday night’s Richmond Public schools (RPS) meeting in support of a collective bargaining resolution on the agenda.
They said that it would give them a seat at the table to help make decisions that impact both students and staff.
“When the teachers have a say so in what is in their contracts, it benefits the student because our office conditions are the children’s learning conditions,” preschool teacher Darrell Turner with the Richmond Education Association (REA) said. “If we can bargain for better work hours, that means that that teacher can respond to those children’s needs a lot quicker, instead of having to work those two or three jobs. What that means is that teacher can advocate for those building conditions to make sure that they are healthy for our students.”
As of May 1, the commonwealth permitted local governments to engage in collective bargaining with its employees.
The collective bargaining resolution would give teachers at Richmond Public schools the ability to organize and negotiate. Many teachers spoke during the public comment period at Monday night meeting about the necessity for collective bargaining power because they are being overworked and under-compensated.
“We’ve been back in school for less than a month now, and working 10-plus-hour days like we have been is simply not sustainable,” teacher Anne Forrester said. “With the national shortages of staff and teacher retention issues in RPS specifically, I worry that without intervention, the situation will only worsen.”
The school division currently has 69 teacher vacancies, according to a presentation given to the School Board at its Monday meeting.
“As a short-term solution, this Board should follow the example of Harrisonburg City Public Schools and, I believe now, Botetourt County, and shorten the student day so that students may get home at a reasonable time with the bus shortage, and staff may have the time for the many trainings and meetings and other tasks that they’re responsible for completing within their contracted hours,” Forrester said.
As teachers spoke, Board members repeatedly expressed their appreciation for the role of educators in the City of Richmond. If the resolution passes, teachers in Richmond Public Schools will join educators in other districts throughout the country.
Just after 11 p.m. Monday night, school board members adjourned the meeting before the resolution could be discussed.
8News is working to learn when a vote is expected to happen.