Introducing a high-impact tutoring program to a school district may have bargaining implications for existing educators. Even if your school district is not covered by a collective bargaining agreement, these are potential challenges and opportunities that the union and district leadership should discuss to ensure a smoother implementation for all stakeholders and maximize the positive effects on students.
Since a school district may outsource a high-impact tutoring program and the tutors may not be school district employees, the employer may not have a duty to bargain over the terms of the tutoring program. However, implementing a tutoring program may have workplace implications on existing school district employees (which are outlined below). Consequently, the school district has a duty to bargain over any impacts or effects of implementing a tutoring program, many of which are covered in the existing collective bargaining agreement. If the local and school district have already negotiated any terms and conditions of employment for tutors, the school district cannot unilaterally contract out a tutoring program.
As always, the best practice is for a school district and local union to bargain, or collaborate where bargaining does not exist, on the introduction of any program since it will likely have workplace implications on members. This ensures that all parties have input into developing a program that enhances student learning and also improves educator support, which is crucial since they have the best understanding of their students’ learning issues and needs.
Depending on the scope of the tutoring program, you may want to consider negotiating or collaborating to create site-based labor-management committees since workplace issues may vary among schools.
POTENTIAL WORKPLACE CHALLENGES
Union Members serving as Tutors
Many educators have to work second or even third jobs beyond their jobs in schools. Depending on when and what type of tutoring (subject matter) will be provided, existing school employees may want to earn additional compensation or enhance their professional growth. Educators in the school should have the first opportunity to work as tutors, with the ability to do so on a voluntary – not mandatory – basis.
The local and school district may want to work together to align a tutoring program with a “Grow Your Own” program. This could be particularly helpful for Education Service Professionals (ESPs) who do not work full-time and could be trained to be tutors. If this occurs, ESPs should be compensated for training time, and paid at the tutoring rate of pay, if tutoring rates exceed their own salary. Similarly, student teachers could be trained and serve as tutors, and should receive compensation during training periods, as well as when serving as a tutor.
Retirees could also be recruited to tutor, but school districts and the union should ensure that their pension benefits are not at risk should they opt to do so.
All bargaining language/policies should:
- ensure that existing school district educators cannot be forced to work as or substitute for tutors, and;
- ensure that existing school district educators will not be disciplined if they decline a request by a school district administrator to serve as a tutor or as a result of any interactions with tutors.
Locals can bargain for additional pay for tutoring, much like other additional roles and responsibilities such as a team leader or instructional coach. These could be included as part of the main contract or separately as a memorandum of understanding (MOU).
There could be a destabilizing effect on a school if tutoring rates from an outside vendor exceed those of certificated employee salaries (on an hourly basis). This could have a negative impact on morale, and potentially exacerbate an educator shortage.
Existing educators may have to take on additional roles or responsibilities to support a school district’s tutoring program. This could range from educators communicating and collaborating with tutors about students to ESPs providing additional in-school or technical support. Impact bargaining (or collaboration where bargaining does not exist) should address any scheduling or workload changes, and educators should be compensated for any additional work.
Some potential workplace questions include, but are not limited to:
- When will students be tutored and will there be any impact on existing educators’ schedules? Many educators are already overburdened and will not want to work additional time.
- How will tutors communicate/collaborate with school district educators? Educators should not lose any of their planning, collaboration, or duty-free time.
- For Specialized Instructional Support Personnel (guidance counselors, media specialists, attendance counselors, nurses, school social workers, et al.), how will tutoring align with student IEPs? This alignment could result in additional work for school district employees.
- Will school spaces have to be reconfigured to accommodate tutoring? Will this have any impact on other ESP jobs (custodians)?
- Who will coordinate scheduling for students/teachers/tutors?
- Who will be responsible for coordinating/solving technological issues for tutors, especially if it students are tutored on line?
Additional Bargaining and Advocacy Considerations
Ability to Pay in Bargaining – What are the budgetary implications of implementing a high-impact tutoring program? Will the school district claim inability to pay salary increases or benefits in bargaining because of increased tutoring costs? Will a school district try to reduce full-time staffing levels?
Identification of Students – How will the school district identify students who will be receiving the high-impact tutoring? It is critical that school district utilize objective criteria. In cases where a teacher’s evaluation relies on student test scores, tutoring could impact a student’s scores, and therefore potentially impact a teacher’s evaluation score and pay.
Identification of Content – What subjects will be tutored? Is it only math and reading, based on state-wide tests? Will this truly enhance student learning? What about non-tested subjects or students who are too young to take standardized tests (K-2)?
Virtual Tutoring Considerations – For tutoring that is predominantly online, how will student equity considerations be addressed to ensure access to necessary equipment, adaptive technology, or language and disability accommodations?