Thousands of Maryland teachers are being asked to join in a massive "work-to-rule" job action Jan. 8 through 10 to protest state budget cuts.
The job action, called by the 36,000-member Maryland State Teachers Association, coincides with the opening of the 1992 General Assembly.
It is being called at a time when some teachers in Baltimore, Howard County and other jurisdictions already are refusing to perform work not specifically required by their contracts, as a way of protesting budget cuts.
The protests were triggered by massive reductions in state aid to local jurisdictions, including the $85 million in cuts announced by Gov. William Donald Schaefer in October.
Those cuts led local governments to scale back programs and services, including education. In the most extreme case, Baltimore is threatening, over the state's objections, to close schools for a week in February to save money.
Since mid-November, members of the Baltimore Teachers Union, which is not affiliated with the MSTA, have been conducting their own "work-to-rule" action, refusing to perform work not specified by their contracts, despite some grumbling by administrators.
The MSTA's request is more limited in duration, but designed to do the same thing: pressure politicians through strict adherence to the union contracts.
"You would arrive at the beginning of work, and you would depart at the end of work -- which, as you know, for teachers is an unusual thing," said Jane R. Stern, president of the MSTA, which represents unionized teachers outside of Baltimore City.
Stern said that each day teachers typically do at least three hours of unpaid work beyond the eight hours specified in their contracts.
Under a "work-to-rule" action, they would refuse to do any of that extra work, she said.
That could eliminate after-hours conferences with parents, after-hours lesson preparation, grading of assignments or participation in extracurricular activities with students.
"There's a limit to the amount of time you can expect people to do work for nothing," said Stern.
And she took issue with critics who argue that such an action would make children the victims of a political fight between teachers and legislators.
"By the underfunding of school budgets all year long, for years and years . . . the politicians are the ones who are shortchanging children," said Stern.
She said union leaders are hoping the protest will prod legislators into restoring budget cuts, revising the state's tax system and changing the mechanism for state funding to education.