TPS Support Staff Hoping For Hourly Pay Raise
By Tara Vreeland, The News On 6
TULSA, OK -- Support Workers for Tulsa Public Schools are hoping 2010 will mean 28 cents more per hour.
Employees used pennies to make their plea taking them directly to the front doors of school board members' homes.
The American Federation of Teachers union represents 3,000 support employees. Those are the school custodians, bus drivers, and mechanics.
The union says the average support employee makes less than $18,000 a year. It says 28 cents may be pocket change to some but the raise would make a difference to them.
Candace Atchison has been a Tulsa Public Schools bus driver for 25 years.
"I love my job. I love the special ed children that I work with. That's all I've ever drove was special ed.," Atchison said.
She acknowledges 2009 has been a hard year across the board. She says she was counting on a 28 cent raise to help her survive.
"I'm 60 years old. I'm a widow. I need the money," Atchison said.
To make a point, the workers left a bag of 28 pennies with each school board member.
School board President Lana Turner says TPS employees are worth so much more but they have to consider many things before raises are agreed upon.
"It's like what is the value of 28 cents? There is so much going on right now that we have to be able to look at everything in a global perspective," Turner said.
Union president Kelly Simon says the union had a tentative agreement with the district but says Superintendent Keith Ballard denies there ever was one.
"We're asking for him to show us his integrity on upholding our contract," Simon said.
In a memo sent to employees last week, Doctor Ballard stressed there has not been an agreement.
He says they were still in negotiations when AFT leadership went public. He also stated negotiations will continue at a board meeting on Monday night.
Until then, Atchison hopes the penny plea will help.
"28 cents is not a lot of money to some people, but to us, it's a lot," Atchinson said.
Tulsa Public Schools unanimously raised some administrator's pay by thousands last week. This as TPS faces a $3.5 million budget shortfall.
Doctor Ballard says these are not pay raises but promotions.