A dispute over a new teacher contract in Scarborough is generating national attention.
Teachers in the district have gone without a contract since the end of August. After they rallied last month, presidential candidate Bernie Sanders tweeted his support, saying he "stands" with them and will protect their right to strike.
I stand with @MaineEA and the teachers in Scarborough, Maine, who are fighting for better working conditions and a union contract. We will protect teachers' right to stand up for themselves and their students, and all workers' right to strike. https://t.co/4TitQwHrRK
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) December 16, 2019
Scarborough Education Association President Krystal Ash-Cuthbert says the attention is a sign that educators are undervalued around the country.
"Well, there's always that, 'Not in my town. Not in my town. Well in my town...'" Ash-Cuthbert says. "No, this is happening to teachers everywhere."
And after 10 bargaining sessions between the union and school board, Ash-Cuthbert say major disagreements remain, particularly over demands for more planning time and comparable pay to similar districts.
Scarborough School Board Chair Leanne Kazilionis says the two sides began a fact-finding process last month, facilitated by a panel that will issue recommendations.
"We have good faith disagreements about what should be in the contract," Kazilionis says. "And we will look forward to the recommendations from the panel, and hope that it will help us reach a settlement."
The union will hold another rally ahead of a school board meeting Thursday night. and Sanders campaign representatives and state labor leaders, including Maine Education Association President Grace Leavitt, are expected to attend.
"I would say it's about respect," says Leavitt. "Respect for educators, for the profession, for teachers having a voice in making those decisions about things that impact what they do and how they work with our students."
For disclosure, the Maine Education Association represents most of Maine Public's news staff.
Updated 3:48 p.m. January 2, 2020