Students Stand By Teachers' 'Work To Rule' Protest

April 21, 1991|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,Staff Writer

Michelle Miller, a student at Mount Hebron High School, doesn't think she did too well on her algebra test last Thursday.

The day before the test, she asked her math teacher for after-school tutoring, but he couldn't help her out.

His refusal resulted not from indifference to his students, but responsibility to his fellow county teachers, who began a three-day job action last Wednesday to protest education cuts in the proposed county school system budget.

About 2,700 county teachers refused to put in extra hours before or after school as part of their "work to contract" action protesting County Executive Charles I. Ecker's proposal to slash $8.9 million from the school board's $146.2 million budgetrequest.

Despite Miller's performance on her algebra test, the 16-year-old strongly supports her teachers' opposition to the budget cuts, which would eliminate a negotiated 6 percent pay raise next year.

"I think it's just awful what they're doing to the teachers. All the good ones will leave," she said. "I'd be behind them if they wenton strike. But I know they won't, because I know they don't want to hurt the students."

Other students questioned last week about the job action generally stood behind the teachers, saying the three-day demonstration wasn't causing any big problems.

"It wasn't right for Howard County to take their contract away," said Mount Hebron student Babatu Hansen, 18. "They could go to the teachers and say, 'This is how it is,' and try to work it out with the teachers."

During the three-day campaign, teachers worked to the letter of their contract. That meant not staying after school to prepare lesson plans, canceling parent conferences and leaving tests behind at school, instead ofgrading them at home.

Students say the most inconvenient aspect of the teachers' action is the difficulty in staying after school to make up missed tests or science labs.

Erin Gregoire-Cope, 15, of Wilde Lake High, said she and other students rushed through a math testThursday because teachers had to leave at 3:05 p.m.

"It was a bigthing. Everybody had to get in quick and rush to take the test before they left," she said.

For other students, however, the teachers'action has proved academically beneficial.

Chris Turner, 14, a student at Wilde Lake, said he didn't complete an after-school test during the "work to rule" campaign, so his teacher is letting him finishit up this Tuesday.

"I'll probably do better," Chris said. "I know what the test looks like; now I can go home and study it."

Jim Swab, president of the Howard County Education Association said that the "work to contract" action has been "100 percent" successful and that many parents have called him to pledge support.

He said the action was designed to give teachers time in the evenings to write letters to the County Council, urging restoration of the cuts in the school board's education budget.

"During the school day they taught thecurriculum, and (the protest) had very little imprint on the the school day, if any," Swab said.

Teachers are especially troubled by Ecker's proposed $8.9 million cut because the school board already cut $12.5 million from the budget at his request, Swab said.

Ecker is laying off 40 county employees and has said his $270 million operating budget proposal includes no raises of any kind for remaining workers.

HCEA members plan to rally tomorrow night at the George Howard Building in Ellicott City when Ecker presents his budget to the County Council.

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