A work slowdown called by Baltimore public school teachers in response to pressure they're feeling from the city's budget crisis got off to a slow start today.
Some administrators were reporting little immediate effect from the "work-to-rule" action.
But principals also acknowledged that it may be too early to gauge the effect of the slowdown, called by the Baltimore Teachers Union yesterday to protest Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's plan to shut the schools and furlough employees without pay for a week to save money.
"We've got a group of very professional teachers who are concerned about the students," said Nora Cartledge, principal of Coldstream Park Elementary School. "They're going to look out for the needs of the children first."
Meanwhile, at Harford Heights Elementary School, the
city's largest, teachers still were doing volunteer lunch duty today, said Vera Newton, assistant principal.
"We're not feeling any effects of the slowdown," she said.
Union fliers are circulating in the building, she said, "but no one seems to be following them."
In addition, teachers are planning a march from school system headquarters on East North Avenue downtown to City Hall next Monday evening to dramatize their plight.
"Teachers in Baltimore City have been giving and giving and giving," Lorretta Johnson, co-president of the BTU, said after a union meeting in the jam-packed auditorium of Coldstream Park Elementary School yesterday.
The mayor's decision is in response to a $27 million cut in state aid, including a $10 million cut to the school budget. The mayor's plan closes libraries and fire stations and eliminates 571 city jobs, including 252 in the Fire Department.
The BTU wants to negotiate with Schmoke over the budget cuts.
The union asked the teachers to refuse hall and cafeteria duty, to refuse to plan all outside activities, including trips, to refuse to attend community meetings and to refuse to stay on the job any longer than the six hours and 50 minutes described in their contract.
Union officials added that if the job action is ineffective, they will go to court in an attempt to block the furloughs.
The BTU, which represents 8,500 teachers and teacher aides, said the mayor should look somewhere other than at its members' paychecks to save money.
Union officials said they are angry that Schmoke has chosen not to use the budget-cutting remedies they had proposed, including an early-retirement program for teachers, a ban on hiring substitutes and delaying book purchases.
They also said that, since they forfeited a 6 percent raise earlier this year to help the city through its budget crisis, they should not have to sacrifice another week's pay.
Clinton R. Coleman, Schmoke's press secretary, said that to "spare the pain" on teachers the city will take the teachers' pay reduction over five pay periods, rather than in one.
Also, Coleman said, despite charges to the contrary, the mayor considered suggestions put forth by the BTU.
"To say that he ignored their proposal is not true," he said. "The bottom line is there is no painless way to take that kind of money from the school budget in the middle of an academic year."