KENNER, La. -- In a 5-3 vote, the Jefferson Parish School Board voted to allow the current teachers union to expire at the end of this month.
Teachers stood outside the meeting for hours, waiting for school board members to leave before heading home.
School board members who voted in favor of the contract expiring say the current agreement goes against state law and works against a massive overhaul plans that’s underway in the Jefferson Parish Public School System.
However, many teachers feel like their rights and safety net have been stripped away.
“Shame on you! Shame on you!”
That was the chant of dozens of educators who spent more than four hours camped outside the meeting awaiting the fate of their teacher’s union contract.
“Teachers deserve benefits too,” said fifth grade teacher Cynthia Williams. “I think it has a lot to do with teacher morale.”
The Jefferson Parish School Board voted to let it expire on June 30 instead of renewing it. Before the controversial vote, school board members heard last-minute pleas from educators, the business community and Jefferson Parish citizens and other union representatives asking the board to renew the teacher’s contract.
“How much turmoil is too much for this board?” said one speaker. “I know one or two of you are going to say it’s all for the children and that dramatic change is good, but that’s not true.”
Ultimately, the school board voted 5-3 to let the teacher’s union contract expire.
This comes at the heels of sweeping changes, including the closure of seven schools next year. Last week, 500 notices went out to teachers and support staff informing them that their positions had been eliminated; 17 principals were also let go.
And in a few weeks, Jefferson Parish teachers won’t have a contract.
“The fact of the matter is the board chose to take a different route and they’ve pulled the rug from under the teachers,” said Meladie Munch, Jefferson Federation of Teachers president. “So I think that the chaos in the JP School System continues.”
“They kind of always vote in a pack,” said fourth grade teacher Kevin Dehart. “The same ones vote the same way and it’s a disgrace that democracy doesn’t prevail. No one has their own voice.”
Acting Superintendent Dr. James Meza said the massive reforms that are underway in the system, although difficult, are necessary.
“Unfortunately because of overspending and acquiring too many people over the years, this district is facing a $25 to $26 million dollar deficit annually,” he said. “We can’t live with that type of budget.”
The school board says it will put together a new team to negotiate a new contract with the teachers union.
Critics worry that contract might not be complete by the beginning of the school year, which starts in August.