PWEA Contract Negotiations Bring Teachers New Hope

PWEA to ask for better wages to help fill vacant positions


The beginning of a new school year has traditionally brought with it a giddy mixture of upbeat excitement and anticipation tempered with anxious nervousness.

Will the kids in my class be friendly? Will they like me? Will I have fun? Will the principal be nice? Will I do a good job? How many standardized tests do I have?

Will the rules be fair? Will there be more homework than I can handle? Will I have to get a second job to work after school and on weekends, so I don’t have to move my family outside of the county?

If I take a second job, will I have time to do all the professional development, lesson planning, and grading during my planning period or will I need to cover classes?  If I bring my work home, how will I have any time left for my family?

Oh, in case it wasn’t clear from the start, we’re talking about teachers here.

“I always look forward to meeting new students and getting to know them, but I’m honestly feeling a lot of dread going into this year,” said a returning Prince William County teacher.

(I will refer to her as Anna since she requested not to be identified by name or job site.)

 “Last year was rough,” Anna continued. “We had a lot of people leave, and I don’t know if all those positions were replaced. I just remember feeling very overwhelmed and drained, and stressed out to the point where I wasn’t sure that I’d be returning this year.”

The staffing shortages across the country have hit the field of education particularly hard. Prince William County Schools has had an especially difficult time finding applicants- even compared with neighboring school divisions in Northern Virginia.

There was always a minimum of 500 vacant positions advertised by the division last year. At its height that number reached nearly 1000 unstaffed positions. The vacancies at many schools and the lack of substitute teachers left remaining staff members scrambling to pick up the slack.

“I had to take on more and more students, and I used all my planning time to cover other classes and go to all these meetings and help other people, so I never had time to do all the other and new things we’re required to do. Not to mention lesson planning and grading. I can’t keep going like that,” Anna said.

Anna said that if she decides to leave the division, she will likely take a teaching position in Stafford where she has lived for several years. Like many PWCS employees, she has found living in Prince William County to be unaffordable.

When asked what convinced her to continue teaching for the division this year, Anna immediately said what many teachers have already predicted, she stayed for her students and colleagues.

However, another reason she stayed is that she believes PWCS has turned a corner and will continue to provide better pay to its employees, thanks to collective bargaining. 

“I also know that the is negotiating new contracts for certified and classified workers, and that gives me hope that things are getting better,” she said.

PWEA and PWCS began working on the first-ever negotiated contract through collective bargaining in April of this year. Negotiations resume on August 15

Like Anna and many employees across the division, PWEA leadership believes a fair contract that provides competitive livable wages is the only way to make sure our public schools are properly staffed so as to provide our students with a nurturing environment and a world-class education. Our careers and our children’s futures are on the line.

Now- what to wear on the first day of school…

PWEA Leadership is excited to lead the way for PWCS employees this year! 

PWEA, Prince William Education Association, PWCS, Prince William County Schools, education, teacher salary, Prince William County, hiring teachers, pay, negotiations, contract