Letter: Pay parity for Leverett
What is a fair teacher salary for teachers in Leverett? Every year at the annual town meeting, Leverett citizens vote overwhelmingly to approve the Amherst Regional budget, a budget that includes teacher salaries for the Amherst Regional Middle and High School. For 14 years, the Leverett Education Association has been seeking pay parity with Amherst teachers. This pay equity has been agreed to in principle by members of the School Committee and town officials. We all teach the children of Leverett. However, the disparity in the salary scales between Leverett and Amherst Regional has more than tripled in that time, from about 3 percent in 1999 to about 10 percent for starting teachers and up to 25 percent for the most experienced teachers today in 2013. This pay inequality does not exist in Amherst/Pelham because elementary and secondary school teachers are on the same salary scale. Over the past four years, Leverett contract negotiations have been increasingly adversarial between town officials and the teachers. Once again, it appears that Leverett teachers will be starting the this school year without a contract. We have signed a series of one-year contracts, whereas in the past we were able to civilly negotiate three-year contracts.
There needs to be a change, a return to civility in negotiations, an end to town officials attempting to pit town and school employees against one another. There needs to be genuine efforts to bargain collaboratively and to achieve compromise. As the town looks to fund such projects as the $3.6 million universal broadband network and services for the elderly, we must not sacrifice the quality of education in Leverett.