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Prince George’s teachers protest for fair wages and better leadership

Beginning in mid-March, the Prince George’s County Education Association (PGCEA), or the teachers’ union, encouraged teachers to begin a protest using the “Work to Rule” method,  where teachers would only perform duties that are within their contract and nothing else.

To many, this protest was a long time coming.

“The catalyst for the protest is an accumulation of years of not having increases of salary, [but] increases in contributions that teachers have to make” says an anonymous Parkdale teacher.

Although teacher salaries have seen slight changes here and there, the frustration reached a tipping point when employees outside the classroom were awarded more money secretly.

“The icing on the cake is the fact that there were secret raises on the administration board and teachers have been trying to get raises for a long time,” said the teacher.

It was revealed in early March that some employees in the Human Resources department, who work in the Central Office, received up to 10 percent increases in pay.

Prince George’s teachers are not the only ones fed up with the way they are paid and treated in the U.S.

Prior to the PGCEA protest, West Virginia teachers staged a protest over the course of two weeks, demanding a five percent increase in pay. The West Virginia teachers union was very successful with the protest and was able to secure the increase for its teachers.

For West Virginia teachers, the only grievance was pay; however, this isn’t the case for Prince George’s teachers. Although one of the grievances is salary increase, a grievance just as equal is the desire for elected school board members. As of right now, board members are appointed rather than elected.

“We want the superintendent out of office [because] we do not believe he’s fit to rule,” said an anonymous Parkdale teacher. “We want a school board to return to the hands of the people rather than of the county executive.”

The downside to this protest, and others happening across the nation in states like Kentucky, Arizona and Oklahoma, is that it may not be “affecting the board” as much as it is affecting the students.

“Students are directly affected by this form of protest.” said the teacher. “If we are truly following the Work to Rule method, recommendations, after school tutoring and all the extra stuff teachers do for kids will stop because it’s not in our contract.”

It was recommended by PGCEA for the Work to Rule protest to go until the beginning of Spring Break.  With school back in session, it is up in the air whether or not teachers will continue arriving at 7:15am and leaving promptly at 2:45pm, their contractual hours.

Whether it continues or not, teachers feel the protest did serve a purpose.

“I believe that knowledge is a vital thing when things like protests happen,” said a Parkdale staff member. “This informs the populations that the cause is important and necessary.”