Richmond school board passes collective bargaining

Published: Dec. 6, 2021 at 9:15 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 6, 2021 at 11:31 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - After a heated discussion during Monday’s Richmond School Board meeting among educators and board members, the board passed a collective bargaining agreement.

The board passed the resolution 8-1 to the cheers of dozens of representatives from the Virginia Education Association (VEA).

The resolution basically allows teachers to negotiate directly with the board to decide salaries, working conditions, and benefits.

“It will allow the educators of Richmond to have a seat at the table when it comes to issues that are important to them in regard to contract negotiations,” said VEA President James Fedderman.

Federman says the resolution would also give teachers more say in their salaries and working conditions, key issues they say would address the school systems learning.

Data shown during a school board meeting in November showed only 3% of 3rd graders are on grade level when it comes to math. Some school administrators say it shows learning at home took a toll on Richmond students.

When students were tested during the first couple of weeks of school, only 4% of 8th graders were on grade level for math. Only 18% of 3rd graders are considered to be proficient in reading.

There were passionate pleas from a long line of frustrated people wearing red VEA shirts and masks who put pressure on board members for more than an hour to pass the resolution.

“How can we teach when some students don’t know how to hold a pencil,” said a teacher during public comment.

“Teacher working conditions are student learning conditions,” said another teacher. “Collective bargaining can fix that.”

But not every board member was on board with passing collective bargaining of resolution. Some board members reluctantly voted to pass the resolution with Jonathan Young the only board member to vote against it.

“I fail to see how collective bargaining doesn’t substitute one arcane, hierarchical, bureaucratic process for another,” said Young. “I don’t see that collective bargaining is that tool.”

“This process feels rushed,” said Dawn Paige.

Richmond is the first locality in 44 years to pass a collective bargaining resolution in the state.

The Generally Assembly reinstated the collective bargaining law in 2020 to allow localities to decide whether to pass it or not.

“People should care that there’s going to be a say in the quality of education that our students are receiving in our public schools it also gives teachers a voice about things that matter to them most like,” said Federman.

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