Fairfax educators rally for historic collective bargaining effort to improve teaching conditions, student learning

The Fairfax Education Association and the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers have banded together to ensure that educators and school support staff are able to negotiate a contract with Fairfax County Public Schools for better working conditions and student learning conditions. (Photo courtesy of National Education Association Public Relations)

The Fairfax Education Association and the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers have banded together to ensure that educators and school support staff are able to negotiate a contract with Fairfax County Public Schools for better working conditions and student learning conditions. (Photo courtesy of National Education Association Public Relations)

By Isabel Soisson

June 5, 2024

The Fairfax Education Association and the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers have banded together to ensure that educators and school support staff are able to negotiate a contract with Fairfax County Public Schools for better working conditions and student learning conditions.

Teachers and school support staff in Fairfax on Monday launched a campaign that would secure their right to collectively bargain for the first time in nearly 50 years if successful, all in an effort to better serve local students.

The YES for Fairfax Education Unions (FEU) campaign is an alliance made up of the two largest education unions in Northern Virginia: the Fairfax Education Association (FEA) and the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers (FCFT).The two organizations have banded together to ensure that Fairfax educators and school support staff are able to negotiate a contract with Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) for better working conditions and student learning conditions.

In March 2023, the Fairfax County School Board approved a collective bargaining resolution, which granted Fairfax educators the right to collectively negotiate terms and conditions of employment as a bargaining unit through an exclusive representative–these two organizations are running to be that representative as one entity.

In addition to advocating for these educators’ right to collectively bargain, this effort aims to improve learning conditions for students, promote smaller class sizes, enhance school safety and mental health resources, and increase prep time. The effort also aims to help ensure that Fairfax County students have access to art, music, physical education, and libraries.

Voting in this year’s union election began on Monday, and runs through June 10.

FEA president Leslie Houston said that if their union effort is successful, it “will change the lives of 27,000 employees.”

National Education Association (NEA) President Becky Pringle also attended the launch event, where she said what happens in this election goes even further: it affects all of the roughly three million members of the NEA.

“What you do in Fairfax, it affects people all over this country,” she said.

This effort comes as Virginia continues to face a significant teacher shortage in public schools driven by a number of factors including the pandemic, dissatisfaction with wages, and political fights over education.

The most recent data from the Virginia Department of Education shows that the commonwealth’s teacher vacancies more than tripled from 1,063 in 2019 to 3,649 in 2023. In April of last year, the Virginia Education Association (VEA) reported that the estimated average teacher pay in the commonwealth was just over $62,100 annually—more than $6,300 below the estimated national average for the job. In fact, Virginia teacher pay hasn’t topped the national average in over 50 years.

“In addition, analysis by the Economic Policy Institute shows Virginia has the third least competitive teacher pay in the country when compared to other fields that require a similar level of education,” the VEA report read.

Virginia’s General Assembly wrapped up its 60-day legislative session in March, after approving a new, two-year state budget—a document that ensures teachers and state employees will get 3% raises in each of the two years covered by the budget.

  • Isabel Soisson

    Isabel Soisson is a multimedia journalist who has worked at WPMT FOX43 TV in Harrisburg, along with serving various roles at CNBC, NBC News, Philadelphia Magazine, and Philadelphia Style Magazine.

CATEGORIES: EDUCATION

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