The following speech was given at the May 3, 2017 Board of Education meeting by BFT President Cathy Campbell.
Good Evening Board Members, and Superintendent Evans,
My name is Cathy Campbell and I am the President of the Berkeley Federation of Teachers.
We are here tonight, collectively, to express to you the importance of the negotiations that are taking place between BFT and BUSD for a new contract. As you know, our current contract expires on June 30, 2017. These negotiations are challenging due to declining state revenues and declining enrollment in BUSD, but very substantial discussions are occurring, with a focus on meeting student needs and retaining BUSD’s excellent teaching corps.
As you discuss the detailed documents before you tonight regarding the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 budgets, we urge you to remember that these documents do not yet reflect any cost-of-living adjustment for your teachers and other employees. Schools are, as you know, primarily groups of people gathered together to educate and empower children and students. These people, certificated and classified, are the heart of the endeavor. We hope you will keep strongly in your mind the need to compensate, value and retain your hard working employees, and to do all you can to allow them to be able to live and work in this area, and to continue serving our students.
We urge the Board to prioritize employee compensation and to factor this into the equation as you look at possible cuts in the 2018-2019 budget. The target for budget reductions may need to be increased. If more cuts will be needed in order to give your core employees a raise, that will need to be prioritized. There is no way your staff can go for two years without a raise.
Another critical item in these negotiations is the discussion about increasing prep time for Grades 1-3 teachers.
You have heard from some of our teachers about the vital role that time in the student day to prepare plays in the quality of instruction. In addition to the points that they have made I want to emphasize a few new aspects of the critical need to increase prep time in Grades 1-3:
- Teachers will have more time to plan enrichment and hands-on activities for their students, and more time to review student work with an eye toward interventions, one of the cornerstones of our PLCs.
- Increased prep time will be ESPECIALLY supportive to teachers who are new to the profession, OR new to BUSD. Time to focus and time where you have access to colleagues will alleviate the stress that comes with a new assignment.
- Lastly, with creative planning this new structure can increase student access to specialized instruction in dance, drama and technology, or increase access by younger students to science and music.
Increasing prep time in Grades 1-3 in a substantial way is going to be a huge morale and productivity boost to all K-5 educators. This will show these teachers their value (and as early educators they play an incredibly important role in a child’s life) and increase unity. We look forward to reaching agreement on this important issue, and on compensation for our incredibly hard working educators.
Thank you for your attention this evening.