Following massive community rally, school district resists educators’ call for resources to attract professional educators to county, reduce class crowding
UPPER MARLBORO, MD – The Prince George’s County Educators’ Association announced its negotiations with the school district have reached an impasse, after the administration failed to address the crushing workloads and lack of competitive compensation needed to recruit new teachers and fill the hundreds of vacancies in Maryland’s second largest school district.
Talks stalled after a rally on Thursday where educators joined forces with students, parents, elected officials and community allies to pressure the county school board to fund plans for increased academic performance.
“We are all-in for our students, but most educators like myself, we’ve got 2 or 3 jobs just so we can make our basic ends meet,” said PGCPS school counselor Donna Yearwood. “We cannot as educators, as teachers, as counselors continue at this pace we are going at. We cannot do it, and the school district needs to step up.”
For weeks, the union has been advancing their platform to ensure better student outcomes, which includes reducing heavy workloads and ensuring children and educators have access to a healthy and safe learning environment, as well as fair compensation for highly trained educators.
While the teachers’ union negotiating team has bargained in good faith for weeks and was able to tentatively agree on a number of items, the school district’s response on several key matters – workload and competitive compensation – has not adequately addressed the challenges facing educators and students in the county, particularly the staffing shortage.
“There is a crisis in our classrooms,” PGCEA President Donna Christy told the school board. “When a class does not have a teacher, they might get a long-term sub. But more often a patchwork of other educators cover that class or the class is divided and added into other classes, increasing class sizes. None of that lends itself to moving the needle on academic success.”
At Thursday’s huge rally, Delegate Alonzo Washington, former Congresswoman Donna Edwards, and school board candidates Branndon Johnson and Dannine Johnson all joined members of the Prince George’s County Educators Association to let their voices be heard.
“We’re asking more of educators and we’re giving them less to do it. We’re not rewarding them in the same way as our competitor jurisdictions,” said former U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards.
PGCEA has been calling on the school district to recruit and retain more educators by tapping funds outlined in the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, landmark legislation passed in 2021 to raise pay and standards across the state. There are an estimated 800 vacancies in the district this year alone, leading to classroom overcrowding and teacher burnout.
Educators remain committed to their students and hopeful that the school district will work to resolve these outstanding matters quickly.
Earlier this year, the Prince George’s County Educators Association released a package of proposals and priorities related to the next labor agreement that will be signed between its members and Prince George’s County Public Schools. The agreement will cover more than 10,000 educators who work in the Prince George’s County school system. The educators have been advancing key safety and equity issues and to advocate for the needs of their more than 135,000 students post pandemic and beyond.
Educators are asking the district and county decision-makers to join them in reimagining education, to problem-solve together ways to recover from pandemic-related trauma and social skills loss, as well as to improve student learning so they are prepared to succeed in school and in life.