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Teachers in Troy School District picketing for new contracts and better pay

Troy School District teachers push for better pay at board meeting
Troy School District teachers push for better pay at board meeting 02:20

TROY, Mich. (CBS DETROIT) — Teachers in the Troy School District are picketing for higher pay. The teachers have been working without a contract since Feb. 1.

Teachers and community members gathered ahead of Tuesday night's Troy School District Board of Education meeting. They held picket signs and demanded new contracts with better pay.

"It's about respect. Troy teachers deliver a world-class education every day. And we believe that we deserve a contract that reflects that," said Alex Benitez, a high school history teacher.

They are asking for contracts that will retain teachers and recruit new talent. 

"We're in the midst of teacher hiring season, and it's going to be hard to fill those vacancies before the fall. We don't want empty classrooms," said Jason Cichowicz, the president of Troy Education Association.

They said their contracts simply aren't competitive with surrounding school districts. 

"Oh yeah, teachers are starting to leave. I know for sure teachers are starting to look," said middle school math teacher Jennifer Smith. "They've known for three years our contract was coming up to an expiration point. We were ready, and we don't have a contract."

Teachers and community members packed the board of education meeting. Board president Karl Schmidt said the root problem is inadequate funding in public education.

"While we're working on this specific contract resolution, and trying to make sure that we don't set ourselves up for financial insecurity here while we do that," said Schmidt.

The Troy Education Association represents around 800 district staff members. They say the district is hoarding $32 million in its reserves, money they think should be used to pay teachers.

"Typically, Troy is fiscally conservative, and they are trying to do a good job of being good stewards of their finances, which we appreciate," said Smith. "But we also have needs as teachers, and we deserve a fair contract."

The district has said they will use a portion of the fund balance to settle the contract. The school district and the TEA have had four bargaining sessions in the past month, 15 sessions to date. Both sides have agreed to use a mediator to settle the contract. The first mediation session is scheduled for Wednesday, May 22.

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