Members of the Fairfax Education Association and the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers are threatening a job action against local taxpayers if they don't get more money. Prohibited from striking, union members warn that if they don't get their way, they will take a page from their Loudoun County peers and "work to the rule" -- a passive-aggressive protest in which they arrive at the last minute each morning and leave right after the afternoon bell. Among other things, that means no after-hours personal help for struggling students and no working with student organizations. This might be an acceptable tactic for some workers, but it is highly inappropriate for public school educators who work with children. Teachers who abandon their out-of-classroom commitments midyear after signing a contract to work for a specific sum prove that they do not deserve a raise. According to Fairfax County Executive Anthony Griffin, the county is already facing a "multimillion-dollar projected shortfall" for fiscal 2012. Yet the 2 percent pay raise (plus step increases) that Fairfax Schools Superintendent Jack Dale put in his $2.2 billion budget will put county taxpayers an extra $50 million in the hole.
"Teachers ought to be thankful they still have a job," an exasperated Loudoun Board of Supervisors Chairman Scott York told Superintendent Edgar Hatrick when he asked for $55 million more to fund a 3 percent teacher pay raise in Loudoun. Both superintendents somehow seem to think that teachers are entitled to pay raises every year -- even if the local government cannot afford them.
It takes chutzpah for Dale to cite estimated enrollment figures as the basis for the requested pay raises when he and his predecessors have studiously ignored any connection between compensation and student population. According to data compiled by the Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance, at 32 percent, inflation-adjusted public school spending increased nearly three times as fast as enrollment (13 percent) between fiscal 2000 and fiscal 2011. Fairfax County teachers should consider the extra $607 million spent on county schools over the past decade -- over and beyond what was needed to keep up with rising enrollment -- as a pre-emptive raise included in their current salaries that will provide them with more generous retirement benefits later on.
In the meantime, any outbreaks of "blackboard flu" or "working to the rule" should be duly noted by school administrators when it comes time for employee evaluations. Using children and the withdrawal of services to taxpayers to tip the scales in public-sector pay disputes is both unseemly and unprofessional and should not be tolerated.