Last night, the Fairfax County School Board passed a resolution providing collective bargaining rights to teachers and other staff in Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS), one of Virginia’s largest employers. The motion was sponsored by Karl Frisch (Providence District) and seconded by Stella Pekarsky (Sully District).
Employee Associations may now demonstrate sufficient support by petition among employees in one or more of three bargaining units – licensed instructional staff, operational staff, or administrators and supervisors. Bargaining unit employees may then select an exclusive representative by majority vote using a secret ballot and instant runoff voting. The school board then certifies election results, and the Employee Association with majority support becomes the exclusive bargaining agent for that unit.
The following are excerpts from Frisch’s remarks in making the motion:
“This vote is a demonstration not only of our commitment to improving school staffing, pay, and morale but also to better outcomes for students. In addition to engaged parents, there is no greater driver of student success than classroom teachers.”
“We face a staffing crisis in public education. Longstanding teacher and school staff shortages are driven by low pay relative to peers in other professions with similar credentials, inadequate or uneven professional support, and challenging work conditions.”
“Collective bargaining will positively impact staff retention and student success. Everyone wins when teacher-pay increases, working conditions improve, turnover reduces, and educators have a seat at the decision-making table.”
“Growing up, my dad had a public sector union job, and my mother waited tables. Our family’s stable middle-class status was a direct result of their hard work and the transformative power of collective bargaining. Our tireless educators and staff deserve nothing less.”
In February 2020, the Fairfax County School Board voted unanimously to reverse its longstanding opposition to collective bargaining rights for teachers and staff, amending the Fairfax County Public Schools legislative program – issues the school division lobbies for and against in Richmond and Washington.
A few weeks later, the General Assembly came through, giving localities, including school boards, the option of granting collective bargaining rights to public employees. The Fairfax County School Board moved quickly, initiating a process following an “interest-based” model to draft a resolution for board consideration.
Each of the school division’s 17 certified employee associations was invited to participate in the collective bargaining resolution’s development, working with division counsel, staff, and experts for more than a year to reach a consensus.
Since then, the Fairfax County School Board has hosted a work session to discuss the draft resolution’s finer details. It also held a public hearing to receive feedback from staff, students, families, and other community members.