Substitute teachers in the city of Buffalo are demanding a new union contract. WBFO’s senior reporter Eileen Buckley says the substitute have been without a deal for about six years.
“Now I feel like you are playing a game with us -they think that we give up, take whatever you offer and we are going to get tired - we’re not," stated Rona Paul, city substitute teacher and union member of Substitutes United of Buffalo.
The substitutes have been appearing at Buffalo School Board meetings and protesting, pleading with the district to negotiate a new contract in good faith. They say now with a lengthened school day, they are not being paid fairly as professional teachers.
“Our members are tired of being treated this way. We’re not just that namby-pamby little union you had for all those years where you could throw us a dollar or two - not anymore - that’s not who we are,” Paul remarked speaking at a recent school board meeting.
The substitutes accuse the district of trying to save money by hiring new subs claiming they are not properly certified and call it it an insult to long-time substitute teachers.
“They have people in places that are not certified to be long term teachers and they do this routinely and it’s about money," remarked Stephen Hicks, president of the Substitutes United of Buffalo.
Hicks said there is a “lack of regard” for city subs.
“They’ve been low balling us - they have not showed up to negotiation meetings - and then they extended the day," Hicks declared.
The substitutes cover grades K through 12 and have been filling-in as the district continues dealing with a high rate of absenteeism among teachers.
Buffalo Schools Superintendent Kriner Cash told the substitutes he wants to reach a new deal, but noted they must first figure out why there is such a high rate of absenteeism among teachers.
"What is the nature of teacher absences? Is it such that you become more unnecessary. I can’t solve one issue without understanding thoroughly the other. Very concerned that we may have a chronic teacher absence issue just as we are trying to motivate, incentivize more students," Cash stated at recent board session.
The union is demanding substitutes be recognized and compensated and is pledging more actions against the district.