- The Washington Times - Monday, May 14, 2001

Fairfax County, Va., public school teachers are beginning the second round of "work-to-the-rule" protests this morning, but patience and support for teachers is wearing thin the longer they hold out for higher salaries.
The protest, in which teachers work only the 7 1/2 hours they are contractually obligated to, will last for two weeks, starting today and continuing through May 24. It comes as Standards of Learning tests and advanced-placement exams are administered in the county and just one month before school is scheduled to end for the year on June 19.
"I was certainly supportive the first time they . Frankly, Im a little bit wary of them doing this again," said Fairfax County school Superintendent Daniel Domenech, who last week sweetened his first offer of a 2 percent raise to 3 percent. The teachers want a package of raises and benefits that totals 6 percent.
Teachers will hold a rally tonight outside the Luther Jackson Middle School at 6 p.m. before attending the school boards 7 p.m. budget hearing.
"Im just concerned they dont hurt their stature with the parents and with the community by having this," Mr. Domenech said.
Mitch Luxenberg, president of the Fairfax County Council of PTAs, said parents dont approve of the latest teacher protest.
"While we kept a quiet position on the first one, we dont support or endorse this one … ," he said. "The message was heard … this (latest) action may actually be counterproductive."
Rick Baumgartner, president of the Fairfax Education Association, defends his unions action. "I dont think its going to have a negative impact on kids because teachers are very professional," he said. Mr. Baumgartner conceded that while teacher support is strong, "There are (teachers) who are saying, 'I dont want to do this,"
Mr. Baumgartner, whose organization represents 6,500 teachers of the 12,000 teachers in the county, voted for a limited work-to-the-rule protest April 2-5. The vote gave the FEA the right to hold future demonstrations. The FEA says a 6 percent increase in salaries is the minimum that will keep Fairfax competitive with neighboring counties.
A starting salary for a teacher in Fairfax County next year with the proposed 3 percent increase would be $33,265, compared with a starting salary of $35,087 in Montgomery County. Loudoun County offers salaries comparable to Fairfax, with a lower cost of living.
The countys Board of Supervisors says it realizes teacher salaries are a priority, but its been limited by its own budget. A proposed $1.49 billion of the countys $2.3 billion budget is earmarked for schools.
Mr. Domenech called his latest offer "a very fair package" and indicated he is losing patience with the teachers. He said the extra 1 percent will increase class sizes by one student, the first raise in class size since 1996.
"Were not trying to get class size increased. I mean, thats crazy," said Mr. Baumgartner.
The Fairfax County Federation of Teachers joined the FEA in the first protest. Unlike the FEA, federation members never stopped working to the rule.
"Our protest is designed to get the parents attention and to get the parents asking the question, 'Whats wrong?" said Rick Nelson, president of the 4,000-member federation. He said the problem is not that the school system needs to find more money for teachers, but that it is inadequately managing what has become a bloated bureaucracy.
"Frankly, this is not a labor dispute," he said. "The issue is, are we going to base the school budget on whats going on in the classroom, or fund more positions for bureaucrats?"
"Unless the county deals with the salary issue in a fair way, I think the teachers are going to cut back on their free overtime for a long time," Mr. Nelson said.


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