Local teachers union Arlington Education Association is vying to become the exclusive collective bargaining representative for public school staff.
Arlington Public Schools educators, led by AEA, will hold an election to certify AEA as the official union for teachers and support staff. Currently, the membership-based organization advocates for employees but cannot guarantee benefits through legally binding contracts.
The forthcoming election would reinstate collective bargaining after more than 40 years without it, according to a press release from the AEA sent yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon.
“The time has come,” said AEA president June Prakash in a statement. “No more decisions about us, without us.”
The Arlington School Board unanimously approved collective bargaining last May, becoming the second school system in Virginia, behind Richmond, to do so. The Virginia General Assembly repealed a ban on unionizing in 2020.
The road since has been rocky. Last fall, some AEA members said they were taking more time to review language in the resolution and were stymied by a communication breakdown between staff and administrators. At the time, only school administrators had elected a bargaining unit.
The next step forward for AEA will be providing APS with its 20-day notice for a union election.
In a statement, AEA Collective Bargaining Committee Chair Juan Andres Otal said collective bargaining will make a positive difference for students and employees of APS.
“Collective bargaining is our opportunity to have a voice in improving our working conditions, compensation, and benefits. We can’t wait any longer for more planning time,” Otal said. “We can’t wait for a wage that keeps up with the cost of living.”
AEA said in its release that it is grateful to the educators and community leaders who “show up and fight for” school employees and students.
“While there is still much work to do before securing a contract, educators acknowledge and celebrate this achievement for the historic moment it is,” the union said.
The statement added:
We know we will ultimately prevail with your ongoing support, leadership, and commitment to what is right. Our schools must acknowledge that to recruit and retain the best, the division must offer better conditions to all employees. We will continue to press forward and ensure our schools remain strong for our community, our educators, and most importantly, our students.
AEA is itself recovering from recent controversies. Earlier this year, former president Ingrid Gant was arrested for embezzling approximately $400,000 in funds from the organization she led for six years, before she and her executive board were ousted. AEA’s national affiliate, the National Education Association, temporarily took the helm.
Prakash became president last year after working as a kindergarten teacher in APS for six years. Since then, she has advocated for better pay and working conditions for employees and more respect from the School Board.
Earlier this month, she called out APS for telling bus drivers to pick up trash. She has also advocated for more equality in raises in the proposed 2023-24 schools operating budget.
“Two things can be true: We can love our jobs and our students, but also, we can demand to be paid what we’re worth,” Prakash said at the March 2 School Board meeting.
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Too many of us in our community have experienced wrenching loss lately. It can be particularly tricky to navigate as Spring arrives. While it may feel like the very last thing you are able to do, we urge you to consider a local support group and we have a list of a few that our clients have found to be welcoming and healing. This is by no means a complete list, but from Capital Caring to Haven of Northern Virginia to the Wendt Center to the Dinner Party you will find people who get what you are going through.
Art House 7 is thrilled to announce that the award-winning artist, Teresa Oaxaca, will be returning this Spring to host some amazing weekend workshops! We invite you to join us for two fantastic opportunities to learn from this popular master artist.
Our first workshop, “Drawing the Portrait in Charcoal,” will take place on March 11 and 12. During the class, Teresa will guide students through her approach to drawing the human portrait in charcoal while helping them create their own charcoal portraits of models.
Our second workshop, “Painting the Dutch Tulip from Life,” will be held on April 22 and 23. This two-day class will feature a live demonstration by Teresa as she selects, composes, and paints a beautiful flower. As she works, she will narrate the steps and process, allowing students to follow along and learn the art techniques to create their own stunning paintings of the provided selection of fresh tulips.
Please note that both classes require supplies, which can be found on the workshop registration listings here. If you need art materials, we’ve got you covered at the Art House 7 Store. We sell a broad range of art supplies for all mediums at competitive prices, so you can get everything you need in one convenient location.
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