Teachers union sues school board again
By Matthew Stewart | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
For the second time in less than two years, the Blount County Education Association has sued the Blount County Board of Education for alleged acts concerning professional employee salaries.
BCEA alleges the Blount County Board of Education violated state law by modifying professional employee salaries in fiscal 2010-11 and 2011-12. The association filed the lawsuit April 9 in Blount County Chancery Court.
The state Department of Education annually formulates a table of training and experience factors and a state salary schedule that are applicable to all licensed personnel in every local education agency. A district’s director of schools is responsible for establishing each professional employee’s salary rating.
The school board enters into contractual employment relationships with its professional employees.
In 2010-11, the Blount County Board of Education allegedly removed the locally funded portion of step increases for professional employees. As a result, “numerous professional employees” received a lesser amount in the local supplement of their salaries than the previous year.
The reduction breached employee contracts with the Blount County Board of Education, according to the lawsuit.
In 2011-12, the school board allegedly made other salary schedule modifications that resulted in “numerous professional employees” receiving a lesser amount in the local supplement of their salaries than the previous year. As a result, “numerous professional employees” haven’t received the full benefit of the state-mandated 1.6 percent increase in fiscal 2011-12.
The reduction also breached employee contracts with the Blount County Board of Education, according to the lawsuit.
Blount County Director of Schools Rob Britt declined to comment because it is pending litigation.
BCEA, which is a voluntary association of public school teachers, is requesting a Special Master determine the identities of current and former employees who are or were BCEA members and suffered losses as a result of the school board’s alleged acts.
The association is also asking the Special Master to determine the amount of lost wages and file a report with Blount County Chancery Court, which can enter a final judgment to pay current and former employees the full amount of lost wages with prejudgment interest.
In October 2010, BCEA filed a lawsuit against the Blount County Board of Education for allegedly unilaterally reducing, or eliminating, teacher pay.
Blount County Schools approved a $76.7 million budget for fiscal 2010-11. The system’s budget was $3.5 million less than its initial appropriations request, which would have allowed officials to maintain the status quo.
School officials cut $3.5 million of the appropriation request, which included $250,000 for the local portion of a certified step raise and another $410,294 for the system’s retirement bonus for fiscal 2010-11.
The association’s lawsuit alleged the school board “failed or refused to negotiate in good faith,” which is a violation of state law.
In that ongoing case, BCEA is asking Blount County Chancery Court to declare the school board in violation of state law and order them to cease and desist from any further unlawful acts.
The BCEA is also seeking to restore the local portion of a certified step raise and compensate employees. The association is further asking board members to pay the retirement incentive.