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Scarborough teachers attract national attention on stalled contract talks

Scarborough Education Association (SEA) teachers receives supportive tweet from Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders
Credit: AP
Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders addresses a Medicare for All town hall campaign event on Friday, Aug. 30, 2019, in Florence, S.C. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)

SCARBOROUGH, Maine — Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders tweeted his support for the Scarborough teachers’ union and the Maine Education Association (MEA) ahead of the rally, saying, “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.”

“National support is always great,” SEA President Krystal Ash-Cuthbert told NEWS CENTER Maine Thursday. “I think that the most important thing is getting recognition that the job of educating the youth of today is a great deal, and that professional teaching has changed dramatically in the last few years and the way we compensate it needs to change with it.”

Credit: NCM

According to NEWS CENTER Maine partner The Portland Press-Herald, the rally will be held between a school board meeting scheduled at 6 p.m. and a regular business meeting set for 7 p.m.; both of the meetings don’t have the teachers’ contact on their agenda.

A SEA press release says teachers are seeking comparable pay that is better aligned with districts like Scarborough, additional time to improve lesson plans and meet increasing demands of teaching, and an explicit complaints and investigations process that is clear, fair, and equitable.

“We have tried to resolve these issues because we know what’s best for our students, but the School Board isn’t listening,” Ash-Cuthbert said in the press release. “Teachers in Scarborough appreciate the broad support from around the country. The lack of teacher voices in decisions that impact students is an issue nationwide, and here in Scarborough it’s clear the teachers aren’t going to go unheard.”

Since Aug. 31, the teachers have been working without a contract, and held a similar rally on Dec. 5. Today, they will be joined by MEA President Grace Leavitt, Sheila Healy, the Sanders campaign labor outreach director, and state Rep. Ben Collings, who is directing Sanders’ campaign in Maine.

Ash-Cuthbert said, “with this national support we’re getting we continue to put pressure on not only Scarborough but all of Maine to change the way contracts are handled.  

In a statement sent to NEWS CENTER Maine Thursday, Scarborough School Board Chair Leanne Kazilionis said, "We have good faith disagreements about what should be in the contract and we will look forward to the recommendation from the panel and hope that it will help us reach a settlement."

NEWS CENTER Maine has reached out to the Scarborough superintendent and haven't received a response at time of publication.

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