Burlington teachers strike and garner UVM support


Brandon Arcari, Breaking News Assistant Editor

Teachers in Burlington are striking over disputes in contracts ending Sept. 1 with the school board voting to impose a contract that teachers view as unfair.

The strike closed schools both Thursday and Friday over the imposition of a new contract that reportedly provides an annual raise of $1,700 and lowers the health care plan cost. This imposition came after teachers agreed to a one-year imposed contract in 2016.

Schools were closed during the strike, a first for South Burlington.

“We really truly believe we are fighting for the lifeblood of the Burlington public schools,” said Betsy Nolan, a member of the Burlington Education Association and a music teacher at Edmunds Middle School in the Burlington School District.

Nolan said that while the union is willing to compromise on salary and health benefits, they are taking a hard position over planning time for teachers.

UVM’s faculty union, United Academics, issued a statement in support of teachers in South Burlington.

UA stated its objection to the contract imposition because it is “forcing the teachers of South Burlington to choose between going on strike or accepting a contract they find in their best judgment to be unreasonable,” according to the statement.

According to an article published in the Burlington Free Press on Sept. 1, the current imposed contract will strip planning time from elementary school teachers, which Nolan says is what allows them to not only set up lesson plans and grade work, but also to collaborate with colleagues.

The school board says that the imposed contract is fair, and says that when both sides sat for mediated settlement talks, the BEA brought in new demands, according to an article published by VPR.

“In the context of student needs and the ability of the community to fund public education, the contract terms set by the board are fair and reasonable,” school board chair Mark Porter said in a statement.

“It’s very important for UVM students to realize that, from Burlington or not, from Vermont or not, all of our best interests are to stand with the BEA in their strike because it is the teachers’ union that is fighting for a high quality education, against institutional racism and to protect the most vulnerable students,” said sophomore Scarlett Moore, who marched in support of the teachers.

The Burlington Education Association is the teachers union for the Burlington school district, and hasn’t gone on strike since 1978, according to Nolan. This year, they voted 282-16 to go on strike over the conditions they are facing.