MCEA President Chris Lloyd speaks during a rally outside of the school board offices earlier this month. Credit: File photo

Three months into contract negotiations, the Montgomery County teachers’ union says it is frustrated by a lack of progress and responsiveness from the school district.

In blog posts this month, the Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA) wrote entries titled MCPS is “Not Serious in Responding to Our Proposals” and “No End in Sight for Bargaining.”

In the latter post, the union wrote that “MCPS’s approach to bargaining demonstrates to us a lack of commitment to this process and calls for us to take immediate action directly with the board.”

The entry was made Jan. 15, the same day hundreds of union members rallied outside a public hearing about the proposed Fiscal Year 2021 operating budget.

The post says the union’s bargaining team met with MCPS officials seven times since October and has “taken extra time” to explain its salary proposal, but MCPS has not made counterproposals on many topics.

“This inaction on the part of MCPS signals their lack of interest in working jointly with us to provide equity and educational excellence for all students,” the post says.

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MCPS spokesman Derek Turner said on Tuesday that there is a different bargaining process this year, which could cause some friction.

Previously, the union used “interest-based bargaining,” in which the parties work together to find a “win-win” agreement.

This year, MCEA is using “a more traditional approach to bargaining where we will exchange proposals with MCPS,” according to an October statement from Heather Carroll-Fisher posted on the blog. MCEA has more than 14,000 members.

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“We saw at the hearing that MCEA is advocating strongly, and when negotiations are over, we all always come to an agreement,” Turner said. “There’s always going to be some tension any time there’s two sides debating, but we’re all moving toward the same goal.”

MCEA President Chris Lloyd could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

Superintendent Jack Smith’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year is $2.8 billion, a $121 million increase from the current budget. Much of the increase, he said, is attributed to an anticipated increase in teacher salaries, as a result of the ongoing contract negotiations.

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The MCEA posts were made to a blog that is shared among MCEA members and is available to anyone in the community who has the link.

On the blog, the union links to its contract proposals, including a new proposed salary schedule.

The new salary schedule, as proposed by MCEA, would increase the lowest salary for a teacher from $50,503 to $54,050.

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The maximum salary listed on the proposed new scale is $120,750 for a teacher with a master’s degree and 60 additional credit hours. The salary in the current contract for the same level of education and experience is $111,043.

MCPS’ counterproposal lists the lowest salary for a teacher as $51,793, and a maximum of $116,290.

Documents posted to the union’s blog say the union is also pushing for all gymnasiums to have air conditioning by Fiscal Year 2023, elementary schools to have recess on school days that have a late start or early dismissal, and revised student-to-teacher ratios.

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MCEA has a document of proposals to address the asks of the newly formed Black and Brown Coalition, which pushes for equity for minority students. In an MCPS response, the school district says many of the proposals are “illegal” subjects of bargaining and do not belong in the MCEA contract.

Documents also say union members want to be able to obtain a change of school assignment — a transfer — for their children to attend the schools at which they work if their assigned school is not the same.

All year-round personnel are granted between 15 and 26 days of annual leave, depending on how long they have been employed by MCPS.

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The next MCPS and MCEA bargaining session is Feb. 6.

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com