The teachers’ contract dispute in Scarborough has drawn national attention amid the 2020 presidential campaign.

Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders has tweeted his support for the Maine Education Association and the Scarborough teachers’ union, in keeping with campaign platforms backing teachers and organized labor.

And on Thursday, when Scarborough teachers rally during school board meetings, they expect to be joined by Sheila Healy, labor outreach director for the Sanders campaign in New England, and state Rep. Ben Collings, D-Portland, who is directing Sanders’ campaign in Maine.

Sanders tweeted his support last month after a similar rally was held to call attention to stalled contract talks.

“I stand with @MaineEA and the teachers in Scarborough, Maine, who are fighting for better working conditions and a union contract,” Sanders tweeted. “We will protect teachers’ right to stand up for themselves and their students, and all workers’ right to strike.”

The tweet was shared hundreds of times, ‘liked’ nearly 2,000 times and commented on by people across the United States.

“We’re really excited to get national attention,” said Krystal Ash-Cuthbert, president of the Scarborough Education Association. “We’re trying to get our voices heard.”

The rally will be held at 6:40 p.m. at Town Hall, where a school board workshop is scheduled for 6 p.m. and a regular business meeting is set for 7 p.m. The teachers’ contract isn’t on the agenda for either meeting.

Union leaders and the school board began negotiations in February and the previous three-year contract expired Aug. 31. After more than 10 bargaining sessions and two mediation sessions, the two sides recently entered fact finding, a process facilitated by a panel with a neutral chairperson.

The teachers say they are seeking additional time to improve their practice, create better lessons and meet the increasing demands of the profession. They also want an explicit complaints-and-investigations process that is clear and fair; and salaries that are comparable to districts in nearby communities with a similar tax base, Ash-Cuthbert said.

School Board Chairwoman Leanne Kazilionos has said that the two sides have “good-faith disagreements” about what should be in the contract and that school officials hope the recommendations of the fact-finding panel will help bring a settlement.


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