Teachers in Harford County Public Schools are warning parents about their plans to work-to-rule in the upcoming school year, and how the protest over school funding will affect students both in and outside of the classroom.
Teachers who work-to-rule perform only their contracted duties, and work only during the hours required by their contract.
In an open letter to parents, teachers at one local elementary school explained their plans to work-to-rule as follows:
“Increased federal, state and local educational demands, a decreased budget, increased class sizes and contractual obligations force us to make very difficult decisions. These decisions are necessary in order to allow us to continue to provide a rigorous education for each student. Below you will find two lists. The first list is what we will be able to continue to support during our duty day. The second is a list of activities that extend beyond the duty day, therefore, the staff will be able to provide little or no support.
We will continue to:
• plan, organize and deliver rigorous lessons that address specific student needs.
• input data into online systems to track and monitor student progress.
• implement and utilize interventions to address specific student needs.
• provide feedback regarding specific student progress
We will provide limited or no support to:
• organize or volunteer for afterschool events (i.e. – Generations Dance, Spring Fling,…Reading and Math Night, S.T.E.M. Night, etc.).
• organize and assist with clubs/organization (Engineering club, Lego club, etc.).
• participate in extended day field trips.
• return phone calls/e-mails outside of the duty day which is 8:30 am – 3:50 pm.
We hope that you understand our difficult decision to limit our participation in extracurricular activities due to the budgetary constraints brought on to us by the County Council and Board of Education.”
The letter is one of many to come for parents countywide, as work-to-rule, begun near the end of last school year, will go into full effect this August, said Ryan Burbey, president of the Harford County Education Association (HCEA), the union representing county teachers.
Work-to-rule was instituted after state and county funding authorities failed to fund a 1% cost of living increase negotiated for all school employees in the 2013-14 school year, plus a scheduled step increase for those who were eligible.*
Burbey said that thus far, approximately 650 teachers have voted to work-to-rule, but he predicted that the job action would be joined by many others when school starts up again. “I believe the vast majority of teachers, union and non-union, are going to be working to rule,” he said.
Harford County Public Schools had approximately 2,900 teachers in the 2012-13 school year, according to the school system’s Web site.
Work-to-rule is a protest over school funding, including salaries that have been frozen in four out of the last five years, Burbey said. How long the job action continues will be up to participants, he said, but a return to funding the scheduled step increases would be a benchmark, according to Burbey.
HCEA has also issued guidelines for teachers that are working-to-rule, including:
“DON’T call or email parents outside of the duty day
DON’T purchase any materials for your classroom…Request all materials for your classroom which you normally purchase on your own from your principal. If your principal cannot provide needed materials through their normal budget, simply do not use them.
Consider resigning from coaching and other extra-curricular activities
Notify your principal that you will no longer be performing the voluntary activities that you normally do. These include but are not limited to [School Improvement] Team, Social Functions, Clubs, Dances, etc.
Meet at the lobby at the prescribed end of the teacher day. Walk out together. Take nothing home with you.”
* The teachers’ contract with the school board includes a set schedule for future salary increases based on longevity and education levels, known as steps. Steps and other salary increases are subject to the following language in HCEA’s negotiated agreement “All items in this Negotiated Agreement requiring fiscal support will be subject to the decisions of the Fiscal Authorities and the Board of Education’s final actions on the operating budget for the school system.”
Below is HCEA’s complete list of Do’s and Don’ts for work-to-rule: