Clark Faculty Unites in Red on Wednesdays

Clark faculty shows solidarity in their campaign for pay increase. (Annika Larman/(The Indy)
Clark faculty shows solidarity in their campaign for pay increase. (Annika Larman/(The Indy)

For Clark faculty, wearing red on Wednesdays is not a fashion statement, it is a political one.

“Pay equity with K-12,” the bold red T-shirts worn by Clark faculty members proclaim. On the back, a bar graph compares the salaries of Clark faculty and southwest Washington K-12 salaries. The shirts are part of an awareness campaign as Clark faculty push for an increased salary.  

Currently, community college faculty make on average 22 percent less than their K-12 colleagues, Michael Ceriello, Clark political science professor, said.

“We are locally underpaid in comparison to other community colleges’ faculty elsewhere, especially given our higher cost of living here,” he said.

Ceriello is supporting his fellow faculty members by joining the red shirt campaign. The movement appears to have gained the attention of Clark administration.

“Our number one priority for the operating budget is funding for employee compensation,” Clark President Bob Knight said during his State of the College address on Jan. 17. “Our hard-working faculty and staff deserve this.”

So why the color red?

English Professor Kimberly Sullivan addressed the board of trustees about the faculty pay disparity on Jan. 23 (Annika Larman/The Indy)
English Professor Kimberly Sullivan addressed the board of trustees the faculty disparity on Jan. (Annika Larman/The Indy)

According to fifth grade teacher and Camas school district union President Shelly Houle, the movement for better pay is called, “Red for Ed.”

In Fall 2018, K-12 school districts from Camas to Longview went on strike, demanding salary increases. Only three schools settled on contracts before school started. Community colleges and technical schools are part of the statewide teachers’ union, but their wages have not changed, Houle said.

Battleground High School special education teachers assistant Ashlee Law said typically teachers have about 27 kids per classroom. The job requirements far exceed the time spent in the classroom, she said.

“I don’t get paid outside of school hours but I’m always thinking of planning for the next day,” Law said.

Teachers don’t clock off and leave their work behind at school. They spend seven hours with the kids, then another one to two hours a night of grading, correcting papers and preparing lessons.

For teachers like Law and her father, Dave Law, who taught for 38 years, choosing a career in education was based on the positive impact they were able to make on students in the classroom.

“College instructors deserve the same rate per hour,” Law said. “It should depend on degree credentials and how long the faculty member has been teaching.”

Even though faculty are pushing for a pay raise their priority remains the same. A constant theme among the faculty members is the importance of their students. With a majority of faculty members teaching for the pleasure and not the paycheck, their dedication to education is clear. However, faculty members who depend on their salaries show no less of an ambition towards student success.

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