Statewide teachers’ contract proposed in Legislature

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(Host) Backers of a statewide teachers’ contract are hoping that lawmakers will seriously consider their proposal this year. But the teacher’s union in Vermont is strongly opposed.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) The concept of a statewide teachers’ contract has been discussed at the Statehouse for more than a decade. It received its most serious review when former House Speaker Ralph Wright threw his support behind the plan in the early 1990s.

Under this proposal, the state would pay the cost of all teacher salaries and there would be one negotiation process to determine wage levels. It’s likely that the plan would include a salary adjustment mechanism to reflect different cost of living expenses in various parts of Vermont.

The proposal has just been reintroduced at the Statehouse. The chief sponsor of the bill is Milton Representative Doran Metzger. Metgzer says the plan makes a lot of sense since the passage of Act 60:

(Metzger) “We’re treating all schools equally or trying to, that teachers who are doing a job in one Vermont community should be compensated in the same way that teachers in another Vermont community are – whether you’re in Hardwick or South Burlington you’re doing the same job of equal value to the state.”

(Kinzel) Vermont’s teachers union strongly opposes this plan. Vermont NEA director Angelo Dorta says it will further erode local control of schools:

(Dorta) “We want more involvement from the local level, not less involvement. There’s been a lot of concentration of educational policy making at the state level around standards and assessment. The way to keep local communities involved is to give them as much decision making as possible within current law.”

(Kinzel) House Education Chairman George Cross says he’d like his panel to take a serious look at the proposal. At this time Cross is undecided about the merits of the plan:

(Cross) “I think Act 60 does change things and given the fact that education in the state of Vermont – due to the court’s action or inaction and due to Act 60 and Act 68 – is basically a state responsibility, then perhaps a statewide contract makes more sense at this point in time. But I’m not sure. I think it’s one of those things we need to look at.”

(Kinzel) The House Education Committee is expected to look at this legislation in the next few weeks.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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