Maryland’s collective bargaining law identifies subjects that are required topics during negotiations, including wages and hours. And it specifically outlines some subjects that are illegal to talk about at the bargaining table, including class size. We believe this can and must change.
Even before the pandemic, we saw the impact on student learning and working conditions with increased class sizes and out of control workloads. Simply put, empowering educator voice about class sizes will help make sure students have the individualized attention they need, keep class sizes small, and reduce educator burnout and turnover. Win-win-win.
This campaign to make class size a permissible subject of bargaining is also part of a strategic pandemic response. We know smaller class sizes would mean more individualized attention for students and an opportunity to build even stronger relationships with students, which is infinitely more important now as students work to recover from the traumas and challenges of the pandemic.
And reducing burnout and turnover is critical to the stabilization and support of our workforce. Escalating workloads and growing class sizes are major factors that drive educators from the profession and cause the current staffing crisis we see across job categories, counties, and states. Giving educators a voice in class sizes will help keep them in our schools at a time when we need them most.
Addressing this issue is a top priority for MSEA during the current General Assembly session; but it will have its opponents, including any force that tries to limit educator voice or the power of collective bargaining. This legislative change will not happen just by wishing and hoping, but by engaging with legislators and organizing colleagues and parents to speak with the same voice. We shouldn’t have to fight this hard for something that is so basic to the needs of students and educators, but fight we will.
Stay updated by reading MSEA’s weekly Up the Street newsletter during the General Assembly and look for ways you can participate. We have done this before and we must do it again.