Teachers at a high school in Fairfax County, Va., are taking what might be called a casual approach to protesting district salary squeezes. Literally, according to a story in the Washington Post:
Instead of oxford shirts paired with neckties or blouses on top of dress slacks, about half of the Woodson faculty have been "dressing down" as part of a demonstration for better pay. The campaign, which members of the Fairfax County school's English department helped organize, is gaining momentum as teachers at other schools are taking notice.
The movement reportedly had its origins in an English Department brainstorming session at the school during which one teacher noted that maintaining her professional attire for the classroom was becoming a strain on her pocketbook. The demonstrators’ website adds a more metaphorical flourish, seeking to highlight teachers’ ambiguous status as professionals:
We are leaving the business suits in our closets, in a demonstration of the strange duality we are asked to live: all gussied up in the starched demands of professionals, but paid like saints.
The protesting teachers’ standard dress-down uniform appears to be pretty tame—basically of the T-shirt, jeans, and sneakers variety. Even so, the change seems to have offended the sensibilities of the conservative Daily Caller, which refers to the educators as “slobs” and writes distainfully of “tennis shoes galore.”
According to the Post, the average teacher salary in Fairfax County this year is $67,245. That’s considerably higher than the nationwide average of around $57,000, but Fairfax is also among the wealthiest counties in the country, with a median household income of $105,409.
Like teachers in other districts across the nation, Fairfax educators have reportedly undergone salary freezes in recent years amid tightened school budgets. The demonstrators’ website describes their compensation as “stagnant for half a decade, and siphoned off by manipulations to our benefits so that the totals actually diminish each year.” It also makes a pointed reference to escalating area property prices—fueled in part by the county’s reputation for high-achieving schools.
The Post reports that Fairfax schools superintendent Karen Garza has proposed a budget for next year that includes $41 million in salary increases, but it is unclear whether the school board will approve it because of continuing budgetary concerns in the county.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.