Letters to the Editor 1/30

January 30, 2001

Letters to the Editor 1/30

Bargaining law must be updated

To the editor:

Following a very short article recently announcing the Maryland State Teachers Association's (MSTA) legislative initiative to reform the collective bargaining law, the MSTA was given a "thumbs down" by the editors for its efforts. I am compelled to respond by pointing out the need for such legislative reform.

Maryland's collective beginning law hasn't been updated since 1978. Everything old should not be discarded but even the Constitution has been changed a bit. When you look at how different schools are in 2001 from 1978, you can see why the Maryland law needs to be changed.

Bob Chase, president of the National Education Association, has promoted the concept of New Unionism, a collaboration between teacher associations and school boards. MSTA has a long history of negotiating contracts that include many of the issues now called "illegal subjects of bargaining" by the State Board of Education. Now, ruling after ruling by the board imposes additional items to the list of "unbargainables." At this point, the list includes school calendar, job reclassification, "second-class" certification, classroom evaluations, class size, assignments, demotions, transfers, and discipline and discharge of education support personnel (ESP). If the notion of New Unionism is ever really to catch on, the State Board of Education must allow MSTA and its local affiliates to include in negotiations more of the issues that directly affect teachers, ESP and students. Local boards of education that want to allow teachers to negotiate education issues are not allowed to do so by the current law.


New Unionism implies that the workforce of educators must have more say in school reform issues. It's time to link responsibility with authority. Teachers need to decide how they will teach. A good bargaining law will permit local associations to negotiate things like class size, curriculum, methods of evaluating student learning, school discipline procedures, teaching assignments, transfers, for instance, that will affect student learning.

Teachers know how much more effective they could be if they had a say in these areas. It's not enough to request a principal to allow us input; the law needs to guarantee us the right to put it in a contract.

The teacher bargaining law was enacted in the spring of 1968 and the education support personnel (instructional assistants, secretaries, custodians, bus drivers, food service) were afforded the same rights in 1978 except for nine Eastern Shore ESP locals. Why should they be denied the same rights as other public school employees?

MSTA, including WCTA, is not interested in negotiating the landscaping as facetiously indicated in the "thumbs down." We are interested in a law that meets the needs of today's public school employees.

Sharon R. Chirgott


Washington County

Teachers Association

People help us deal with grief

To the editor:

Grief is not an illness, but a growth condition. People can help each other to grow from grief, to make their grief "relax" into wisdom. I wish to thank groups and people who are doing just that - helping the person swimming in that river of fire called grief.

The wonderful people at Trinity United Methodist Church in Martinsburg, the Washington Square United Methodist Church in Hagerstown and Charles Town Presbyterian Church have supported us for years in offering no-cost volunteer support to those aggrieved.

I deeply thank people like Betty Mooney, Eloise Mann, Shirley Collis, Cindy Smailes and Sandy Rowland for turning the searing fires of their own losses into light for others.

Jim Surkamp

Coordinator, The Grief Support Network, Inc.

Shepherdstown, W.Va.

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