The Prince George’s County teachers’ union started an ad campaign on Friday. It asks the school system to reduce class sizes and increase teacher pay. More than 10,000 active teachers and other education professionals in Prince George’s County, Maryland, will be featured in two ads that will run on all local network television affiliates and many cable networks over the next four weeks. Teacher retention has been cited as a major issue by educators at the state’s second-largest school system, who say they need more mental health services and better retention measures to help them deal with the challenges of teaching during the coronavirus pandemic.
Last April, the Prince George’s County school system was the last in Maryland to return for in-person education after being shut for over 13 months due to the pandemic. As the county with the highest number of coronavirus cases in Maryland, Prince George’s has been unable to open sooner, according to the system’s chief executive, Monica E. Goldson. School personnel and children must still wear masks inside.
Teachers’ testimonies are included in the adverts, and they claim that the school system has difficulty attracting and retaining teachers. Ads claim that the district’s 130,000 children aren’t “reaching their full potential” because instructors don’t have enough preparation time and staffing levels aren’t enough. “They’re giving you 45 minutes to get done five hours worth of work; it just doesn’t make any sense,” educator Justin Robinson said in one of the advertisements. “That’s really what drives people away.”
The Prince George’s County Educators’ Association will run the ads for at least the next month as part of a “public awareness campaign.” The campaign was started by the union’s president, Donna Christy, while the organization is negotiating a new contract with the school system and as the hiring season approaches. More than a hundred ideas have been submitted by the union recently, and each one aims to “solve inherent problems in the school system,” according to Christy. In order to aid kids in their recovery from the pandemic, many projects have been proposed to enhance trauma-informed education and social-emotional learning.
According to Prince George’s County Public Schools senior advisor Howard Burnett, this is just the second time the school administration has consented to openly negotiate union agreements. “More things than I’ve ever gotten from a union” have been agreed upon this year, according to Burnett, who represents one of the two sides. Five unions are involved in the education system’s negotiations.
As Burnett put it, “you have to think about whether we can execute it while you’re contemplating their offers. “We must consider the effect on all five unions.”
Because the pandemic started this year, instructors are concerned that the system’s persistent staffing shortages would be worsened, particularly since they are returning to in-person education.
A total of 798 teachers left their positions during the 2018-19 school year, according to information previously supplied by the district. The number of teachers who resigned in the 2020-21 academic year, the first full school year of the epidemic, was slightly less than 700. On the first of February, a total of 203 instructors had resigned from their positions.
As Christy said, “We need to resolve this contract so that we can support our human resources department and provide them with the tools they need to recruit and retain workers.”
As Christy put it, “We want a world-class education for every single one of our pupils,” and I hope the public agrees. We can’t achieve this goal unless we make it a place where people want to come to work.
When asked why the teachers’ union claimed its plans had been rejected, Burnett noted that the school system had taken into account several of the organization’s suggestions. Goldson’s administration added a compensation-step restoration plan, unveiled in 2019, that granted all staff a 3 percent pay rise on top of negotiated salary increases, around a $46 million investment, when it took over Prince George’s County Public Schools, as well. In late June, Burnett expects the greatest raise in 30 years to be formalized when discussions have been completed.