Calvert Board of Education Pushes Eliminating Protections for Teachers
It appears that the commitment of the Calvert County Board of Education to equality doesn’t extend to the county’s hardworking educators.
The Calvert Education Association, the organization representing the teachers of Calvert County Public Schools (CCPS), has been renegotiating the contract for the teachers since December 2019. After nearly a dozen negotiating sessions over the past six months, CCPS is stalling discussions on salaries to try to pressure teachers to give up their workplace protections, including protections against racial and gender-based discrimination.
“Our teachers are working harder than they ever have for the students of Calvert County,” says Dona Ostenso, President of the Calvert Education Association, “It is alarming and frankly offensive that representatives of the school board are trying to make teachers choose between their salaries and their most basic rights.”
The Board of County Commissioners of Calvert County will vote on their budget on May 19, 2020. The largest budget item for both the county and the school system is teacher salaries, and representatives of the Board of Education have steadfastly refused to discuss salaries until all other non-monetary items have been settled in the contract. Because of this, the Board of Education submitted a budget to the county with placeholder numbers for staff salaries.
“We’ve been ready to negotiate salaries since November,” says Ostenso.
The teacher’s contract includes language which requires CCPS to “comply with the provisions of the Public School Laws of Maryland, which renders unlawful discrimination with regard to race, color, religion, gender, age, ancestry or national origin, familial status, marital status, physical disability, mental disability, sexual orientation or genetic information.” While first proposing to strip the contract of this language outright, the Board of Education is now pushing to neuter the language of any possible enforcement by the Association. This would expose teachers to discrimination and unequal treatment.
“Equity” is one of the five strategic priorities of the Board of Education and it is regularly discussed in open session at Board of Education meetings.
“Although discrimination protection is covered by the law,” says Amy Cox, a member of the CEA Bargaining Team, “without it in the contract, the only way to have a discrimination complaint addressed is to hire a lawyer. We’re working class people; we can’t afford private attorneys. The only thing that this accomplishes is to make it easier to discriminate against teachers.”
This is a major problem for a workforce that is 85% female and is already facing significant challenges attracting educators of color.
“It’s one thing to drive a hard bargain. It’s another thing entirely to refuse to agree to the most rudimentary workplace safety language and attempt to gut protections against racial and gender-based discrimination,” says Ostenso. “They’re trying to get us to cave on our rights, let alone make the improvements we’re seeking for teachers. Educators are going above and beyond to help our students learn and feel supported during this uncharted territory of distance learning. We won’t be bullied into allowing our members to suffer discrimination at work.”