Scarborough teachers have recently been protesting the fact that they have been working without a contract since the beginning of the school year. This conflict hinges on the question of whether the community wants the most qualified adults teaching our children in working conditions that are most conducive to student learning. As a Scarborough resident, my hope is that the answer to this question is “yes” and that the school board will listen to teachers’ voices and settle the contract in a way that reflects these values.

What the public likely doesn’t know, however, is that teachers in Maine are legally restricted from negotiating their most basic working conditions. Teachers are barred, for example, from negotiating the time available for kindergarten teachers to meet to discuss how best to reach their struggling readers. Instead, these teachers are likely monitoring the cafeteria.

And, while the Legislature voted in June to change this law, Gov. Mills vetoed the bill (L.D. 240) at the last minute – without warning and without discussion. In a profession where there is already a feeling of being ignored, these actions just compound that feeling.

The situation in Scarborough is reflective of a broader state and national problem: The teaching profession lacks the respect and prestige that it deserves. And while those in power have the ability to work with teachers to change this, absent such cooperation, teachers are left to take their concerns directly to the public, wherever and however they can.

Mark Ashe


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