2020 | Schools

School board extends teachers union’s contract to continue negotiations

With one-month delay, contract now set to end July 31

The Montgomery County school board on Monday approved a one-month extension to the teachers union’s contract, avoiding an impasse and giving officials four more weeks to agree on the next contract.

MCPS and the Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA) have struggled the past eight months to reach agreements on major components of the union’s next contract, which covers 14,000 educators.

Earlier this month, some teachers said they feared the deadlock would force the sides to declare a formal “impasse.” That would let state officials examine the negotiation process, proposals and counterproposals, and issue a binding decision about issues still in dispute.

To avoid that, the school board approved a one-month extension to the existing contract, which enables MCPS and MCEA to continue negotiations. The contract is now set to end July 31.

The school board also approved one-month extensions for contract negotiations with two other MCPS-affiliated unions representing administrators and service workers. Those unions reached tentative agreements, according to previous interviews with MCPS officials, but the coronavirus pandemic has caused a delay in finalizing those contracts.

“It would be our hope and expectation we would have new agreements in place at that time,” MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith said.

In recent weeks, a blog run by MCEA has lamented “slow progress” in negotiations and wrote that there is still “substantial work to do on our core issues,” like salaries, reducing testing, increased transparency and oversight of staffing ratios, and providing teachers adequate planning time.

Soon, union and MCPS officials will begin a separate round of bargaining about fall classes.

Impact bargaining will include negotiations about everything ranging from what an average work day looks like for teachers to safety precautions needed for both staff members and students.

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