After two months and multiple meetings, Birmingham Public Schools and the Birmingham Education Association came to an agreement on the pay to plug initiative. The policy will still exist, but teachers will be exempt from paying for an appliance if they can directly prove its worth for students.
Examples of this include refrigerators for teachers who dedicate their lunches for student help, and heaters or fans to keep rooms at a consistent, comfortable level.
“[We argued] that it was not
appropriate for the district to be charging teachers for educating students,” Birmingham EA President Scott Warrow said. “And I think the district understood that.”
According to Deputy Superintendent Paul DeAngelis, while the Pay to Plug Initiative had been clarified to better teacher understanding, no direct changes were made.
“The exemption was always in place,” DeAngelis said in an email. “The clarification was intended to address concerns by a few teachers who were not aware of - or not communicated to regarding - the exemption.”
The Pay to Plug Initiative was implemented in 2009 with the purpose of cutting both the district’s energy usage and cost. The debate came about when, based on their own research, teachers discovered they were being overcharged by a significant amount of money per appliance.
“We determined through DTE, the energy company, that a small refrigerator in a teachers’ room used between the school hours and 10 months of the year would run between 3 and 6 dollars in electrical costs. But the teachers were being charged 30 dollars,” Warrow said. “We noticed this with each of the appliances.”
After presenting their findings to the central administration, the Birmingham Education Association was told that the principal cost per appliance covered not only the electrical cost, but the administrative cost that includes monitoring and running the program, cashing the checks teachers write and hiring personal to do room checks.
“There is some administrative cost that goes with administrating the policy,” School Board President Susan Hill said. “It would make sense to have a little bit in there to cover the cost of administration.”
The Birmingham Education Association fought to change this policy, but was unable to do so. “Well we disagree with that decision but it’s their authority to decide if they want to do that,” Warrow said.
The original policy gave principals the authority to judge the appropriateness of an appliance, if a teacher requested an exemption. Confusion occurred, though, and according to Warrow, teachers were unsure how to get an exemption and when it applied.
“The wording on the policy has not changed,” Warrow said. “But the interpretation and [teachers] view certainly has.”
As of press time, the Highlander was unable to find an appliance that fits these criteria.
At this point, the Birmingham Education Association had no plans to further pursue the pay to plug initiative issue. According to Warrow, they are content with the current clarification to the policy.