ARHS/Summit staff demonstrate for fair pay, reject 2 percent COLA
On the sunny morning of May 12, teachers, paraeducators, and staff at ARHS and Summit Academy dressed in their union red colors and gathered to stage a “walk-in” and a chalk-up for fair pay.
Members of the Amherst Pelham Educators Association call the Regional School Committee’s proposed 2 percent cost of living adjustment to teacher and paraeducator pay a “pay cut” due to astronomical inflation.
After chalking the entryway to school with messages like “Fair Pay Now!” “What happens here matters,” and ”support is more than words,” teachers at ARHS walked into the school together at 8:15 a.m., followed a half-hour later by paraeducators.
The action was aimed at building solidarity among staff and heightening awareness of stalled negotiations with the School Committee for what they call a “fair and reasonable” contract.
Last year, teachers accepted a 1 percent cost of living raise so paraeducators would receive raises. This year, the APEA reports they were initially going to receive a 2.5 percent bump for faculty and staff but that was knocked down to 2 percent.
In comparison, the APEA said the Social Security Administration offered its employees a 5.9 percent increase this year.
On the APEA Facebook page, a recent post noted, “The 2% cost of living increase offered by the School Committee isn’t going over well considering the low pay of many ARPS employees, not to mention the current rate of inflation!”
APEA president Meka Magee issued a statement in March that ”cost-of-living increases that attend to the real needs of educators in this community are crucial to attracting and retaining the talented staff this area expects.”
Advocates for a higher COLA say it’s critical for retaining staff during a historic moment of mass flight from the profession. According to WBUR, “Teacher turnover in the state [of Massachusetts] was at least 15% higher over the last two years compared to 2019, according to an analysis by Boston University Wheelock College of Education.” Additionally, in the fall of 2021, about 14% of new educators in Massachusetts quit their jobs.
According to a Scholastic survey of over 100,000 teachers in 50 states, the average teacher works around 17.5 hours of unpaid overtime per week. Teachers also log dozens of unpaid hours writing college recommendations, preparing for the new school year each fall, and offering extra help to students outside of classroom hours.
Those who wish to submit public comment to the Regional School Committee may do so via a voice mail message (413-362-1891) or by email (with the subject line “public comment”) at RegionalSchoolCommittee@arps.org.
The Regional SC meets next on May 24 and the next meeting with APEA is May 26.