By Ashleigh Costello

MADAWASK, Maine – A local teachers union in Maine has agreed to a sizable pay cut in order to avoid layoffs of younger teachers and the elimination of student programs.

The Madawaska School Committee voted unanimously Monday night to cut teacher salaries by nearly 10 percent and implement three furlough days to meet $525,000 in voter-mandated school budget cuts, reports the Bangor Daily News.

The Madawaska Education Association, the teachers union, made that possible by agreeing to reopen its collective bargaining agreement and accept the salary adjustments.

“By making these cuts we can save a majority of the teaching positions and a majority of the athletic and extracurricular activities,” said Yves Dube, chairman of the school committee.

Superintendent Terry Wood had previously suggested eliminating several teaching and staff positions, cutting all teacher pay by 2.2 percent, and eliminating junior varsity and varsity sports at the middle school level. Terry’s plan also called for reducing administrative pay, implementing furlough days, and shortening the school year.

But that harsh plan was made unnecessary by union cooperation.

“This is about the students and our community can’t afford to balance the budget on the backs of students,” said union negotiator Gisele Faucher. “The educators in this system are willing to do our fair share to help in this fiscal crisis.”

The district is not out of hot water just yet.  Even with the 9.45 percent cut in teacher salaries, Dube noted there could be additional cuts in the future. The good news is the impact on students is likely to be far less, thanks to the cooperation of the union and its members.

“We put together something that showed a significant cut,” said Faucher. “We knew the problem is not going to go away in a year and we wanted to do our part and we negotiated today in good faith.”

We applaud the local union for stepping up, and we challenge other teachers unions across the nation to follow suit.

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