RPS Licensed Personnel: Know Your Contract!


A contract is only as strong as the union which negotiates it, and a union is only as strong as its members. That’s right, as rank-and-file members of the Richmond Education Association (REA), we are the source of the union’s power. It’s up to us to formulate the demands our union brings to the negotiating table. It’s up to us to organize and mobilize our fellow workers. And it’s up to us to enforce our contract in our worksites. That begins with knowing our rights, and knowing our contract.

Your Rights Under a Union Contract

The 2018 Richmond City School Board Resolution on Freedom of Speech, the 2021 Resolution on Collective Bargaining, and the 2023-2026 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) for Licensed Personnel negotiated by the REA, covers all licensed employees. Under the Resolution and the CBA, employees have the right to: 

  • share information and talk about union activities and our CBA on the job;
  • distribute union literature at our worksites (including the CBA, newsletters, pamphlets, leaflets, books, posters, QR codes, copies of the relevant policies and resolutions, etc.);
  • convene union meetings at our worksites (including all-member meetings, one-on-one meetings between a member and our worksite’s REA Rep, etc.);
  • self-identify as union members either verbally or non-verbally (e.g., wearing a union button or shirt); and
  • File grievances with the Superintendent for any violation of the Resolution and our CBA. The grievance must be filed within thirty (30) business days of the event or from when you first found out about the event.

If administrators in your building are doing any of the following, they are violating the Resolution: 

  • Discouraging membership in the union, the union’s committees, or any other workers’ organization.
  • Discriminating in hiring, tenure, discipline, or other terms and conditions of employment on the basis of union membership or participation in union activities.
  • Discharging, retaliating, or discriminating against any employee because they have formed, joined, supported, assisted, or chosen to be represented by the union.
  • Discharging, retaliating, or discriminating against any employee because they have participated in collective bargaining, testified in a hearing, or filed a statement, petition, complaint, or grievance under the provisions of the Collective Bargaining Resolution. 
  • Refusing to negotiate collectively or bargain in good faith with the union.
  • Refusing to participate in good faith in any mediation, impasse or dispute resolution procedures as established by the Collective Bargaining Resolution. 
  • Opposing the appropriation of funds, supporting policies, or otherwise acting in a manner that would impair or interfere with the implementation of any CBA approved by the Richmond City School Board.

Sections I-II: Preamble and Exclusive Recognition

These two sections introduce the two parties involved in contract negotiations: the REA (our union), and RPS (our employer). Section II states that this contract is for non-administrative workers who need a license, and lists some of the positions on the teacher pay scale as well as specialists. It is important to note that all employees have the right to file a grievance regarding any violation of the CBA, as well as any other policy or law, regardless of union membership. However, REA Building Reps are only responsible for assisting union members with the grievance process, and should encourage non-members to join the union. 

Section III, A-B: Compensation

  • For the 2023-2024 school year, we received a 6% raise and a 1.17% step increase. 
  • For the next two years of the contract (2024-2025 and 2025-2026), we’ll get between 3-5% raises contingent on negotiations with RPS and the REA based on available funding in addition to School Board approval. The contract guarantees a step increase for the next two years of the contract.

Section III, C: Loss of Lunch Time

  • Employees receive $27.50 every time they lose their lunch period because they have to cover a class due to a teacher absence.
  • If licensed personnel covers or supervises a class during what would normally be their 30-minute lunch block due to teacher absence, they’re paid $27.50. 

The RPS School Board has adopted the following policy regarding duty-free lunch:  

“All teachers shall have each day, at a reasonable time, a lunch period of the same duration as that afforded pupils, during which time no duties are assigned them except in emergencies or when special events occur.” (Code 6.04, “Work Periods and Attendance,” RPS Administrative Procedures)

We’re not fans of the vague language here, but this is what it means: you’re on duty any time you do not receive an unencumbered lunch, with the exception of an emergency (which is vague, but we interpret this to mean a schoolwide lockdown) or special event (which is also vague, but we interpret this to mean a schoolwide or grade-level event that requires all teachers to be on-duty). 

“Teacher absences” include staff shortages. That means if your school is short-staffed, and your lunch is interrupted with coverage duties, you should expect an additional $27.50.

We recommend every employee keep track of their coverage by emailing it to your personal email when you cover a class because these emails are time stamped. Additionally, REA Building Reps will have a Google Form for all additional duties that are compensated in the CBA, which employees should fill out ASAP when they complete or are assigned any one of these duties.

Section III, D: Increase in Class Size

  • Teacher absence also means classes with no teacher where there is a vacancy. When a class is split due to teacher absence, any teacher that absorbs those students in their class will receive $55 per hour, split amongst all affected teachers. For example, if a fifth grade class is split between five other teachers’ classrooms for one hour, each affected teacher would receive $11 ($55 ÷ 5 teachers = $11 per teacher). During negotiations, RPS and the REA agreed each building would track how many classes students were split into, rather than how many students went into each class. 

Section III, E: Loss of Planning

  • All employees on the licensed personnel contract will receive $55 per hour when they cover a class during all or part of their planning due to teacher absence, or are assigned testing or testing related duties. Covering a class is always voluntary.
  • Time for covering and testing duties should be rounded up to the nearest 30 minutes. So 45 min would be paid for an hour. 
  • Teacher absence also means classes with no teacher because of a vacancy.

Section III, F: Additional Teaching Period

  • Employees receive their hourly rate from their current salary in the event that they volunteer to take on an additional teaching period for a year or semester. This could be a teacher certified to teach a class without a teacher who gives up their planning block to teach the additional class. It would also apply to other employees in the bargaining unit that are certified teachers, but don’t have a teaching caseload, such as but not limited to; interventionists, coaches, and specialists. 

Section III, G: Additional Planning or Grading

  • Grading and lesson planning for classes you are not assigned to teach is entirely voluntary. Employees who volunteer to grade and/or lesson plan for classes outside those assigned to them will be paid $30 per hour. This clause includes classes where there is a substitute but the substitute is unable to grade or lesson plan because they cannot access Aspen.
  • Principal approval must be obtained beforehand. 

Section III, H: Stipends

  • Employees who volunteer in the roles listed below should receive a stipend.
    • Academic Architects: $1500
    • Grade Level Lead or Department Chair: $500 (Elementary), $1250 (Middle), 5% of current salary and 10 month contract (High)
    • Textbook & Digital Asset Manager: $500 for 1-600 student schools, $800 for 601-1200 students, $1200 for 1200+ student schools
    • Chromebook Manager (if your school does not have a Student Intervention Liaison): $1000
    • Identified School Testing Coordinator: $2000 
    • Testing Team Members: $1000

Section IV: Job Descriptions

RPS indicated that developing comprehensive job descriptions would take over a year. These descriptions will be drafted prior to School Board approval. 

Section V: Unencumbered Planning Time

Preschool & Elementary: 

  • Average of 30 minutes of planning daily.
  • Only two out of five days a week can include a meeting during planning time. State code does not guarantee preschool planning at all, nor does it say that Elementary planning is unencumbered (no meetings or additional duties). Because of this, RPS elementary and preschool teachers are guaranteed more planning time than the minimum that state law requires


  • 45 minutes of planning daily, or one teaching block, whichever is longer
  • No meetings or duties can occur during planning. Teachers would use their discretion to decide when they need to meet to collaborate with their teams, but a teacher couldn’t be penalized for choosing to not give up their planning time for a meeting.
  • LPP, PLC, department, grade level, and other meetings could occur after contract hours or during the work day, but outside of planning time. Staff may be required to stay each week a total of only two hours after contract hours (see section VII of the CBA). This means that if you have to stay for a two-hour concert after school on a Monday, you wouldn’t be required to stay after for another meeting that week, besides a twice-monthly staff meeting. However, if a single after-school event or meeting lasts longer than two hours, you have to stay for the duration. 


  • Travel time is work. Your travel time between worksites does not count as unencumbered planning time.

Section VI: Staff Meetings

  • All schools can have no more than two staff meetings per month that are no longer than 75 minutes and start within 15 minutes of students dismissing. As with most provisions in this contract, enforcing this (i.e. ensuring that meetings start within 15 minutes of students dismissing) will require an organized building.

Section VII: Additional Work Time

  • Employees can only be required to stay a total of two hours beyond contracted hours any given week for a school event like Back to School, a performance, or a meeting, not including staff meetings (Section VI). However, if a single after-school event or meeting lasts longer than two hours, you have to stay for the duration.

Section VIII: Grievance Procedure

  • Worker(s), the REA, and RPS have the right to file a grievance if the contract has been violated. A grievance must be submitted to the division superintendent within 30 business days of its occurrence. To submit a grievance as an individual, include (i) the date of the event(s); (ii) a description of the event, (iii) that nature of the violation; and (iv) a statement of the relief requested. REA members can be supported by the REA Building Reps in their school site or contact the REA office for assistance. 

Section IX: Duration of the CBA

  • This agreement will last from July 1, 2023 until June 30, 2026. Negotiations must begin at least 90 days prior to the expiration of the contract and this contract will be in effect until a new agreement is established. This past contract was limited to two topics, compensation and duties. The range of topics in the next contract will be open to include other areas such as benefits, leave policy, parent and community engagement, special education supports, teacher assignments and transfers, work environment, and working hours. As such, it is our hope that the next cycle of negotiations begins much sooner than 90 days prior to the expiration of this contract. 

Section X: Funding for the CBA

  • This agreement is subject to available funding. If there are not sufficient funds available, the REA or RPS must initiate the reopening of negotiations for the CBA. 

Section XI: Work Stoppages

Despite public sector strikes being legal in some states, they are banned in Virginia (see § 40.1-55 of the Code of Virginia). To understand why, we need a quick lesson in Virginia history (and no, this history is unfortunately not in the SOLs!). 

In Charlottesville in 1943, the all-Black and all-women workforce of “ward maids” at UVA Hospital went on strike after their petition for a wage increase to meet the rising cost of living was rejected. In response to the strike, UVA laid off all the workers and replaced them with an all-white volunteer workforce drawn from the Red Cross and King’s Daughters. The Black community in Charlottesville mobilized in response. UVA soon changed their tune, and offered raises for all staff who returned to work.

A year later, in 1944, the all-Black workforce of orderlies at UVA Hospital threatened to strike if their working day wasn’t immediately reduced from 12 to eight hours. UVA conceded to their demand, and they won an eight-hour working day.

In 1945, the all-Black workforce of UVA Hospital unionized as Local 550 of the State, County, and Municipal Workers of America (SCMWA), affiliated with the militant Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). Members of Local 550, like Randolph Lewis White, would go on to lead the Civil Rights Movement in Virginia. In recalling those years of struggle, White said, “Whether you’re white or Black, they’ll just cut you down, like mowing hay. But when people band together, you can do a whole lot.” UVA Hospital told members of Local 550 that state law prohibited them from recognizing the union; members of Local 550 said they didn’t care, and continued to advance their demand for union recognition backed-up by the power of the strike.

UVA Hospital caved to the mounting pressure of Local 550, supported by Charlottesville’s Black community and the CIO. The union was recognized in the summer of 1945. However, in 1946 the General Assembly adopted Senate Joint Resolution 12 largely in response to Local 550’s campaign. This resolution prohibited recognition of public sector unions and curtailed the rights of public sector workers. Local 550 remained undeterred, and continued to fight for justice and equality on the job through their grassroots workplace committees. 

1946 witnessed the largest strike wave in U.S. history. Here in the Commonwealth, members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) employed by the Virginia Electric and Power Company – now Dominion Energy – threatened to strike for a 17 cent pay increase. In response, Governor William Tuck – a virulent white supremacist and defender of racial segregation – conscripted them into the state militia and threatened them with a court martial if they didn’t keep working. In 1947, the so-called “Right to Work” laws were passed by the General Assembly, which severely curtailed the rights and power of working people throughout the state.

Section XI of our contract says the union cannot “encourage” employees to strike or do any kind of work stoppage. Two or more workers that refuse a duty together can be fired and can’t be rehired for 12 months. RPS can’t do a lockout of workers (a “lockout” is when the boss doesn’t let workers go back to work until they agree to something). However, as comprehensive job descriptions have yet to be completed, the statement regarding an employee who “willingly refuses to perform the duties of their employment” in concert with two or more employees is far too vague. While undoubtedly a step forward, the Richmond City School Board Resolution on Collective Bargaining and our Collective Bargaining Agreement nonetheless uphold Virginia’s anti-union “right to work” laws.

It is important to emphasize that the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the Constitution of Virginia, and the 2018 Richmond City School Board Resolution on Free Speech protect your right, as a public sector employee, to freedom of speech, freedom of press, and freedom of assembly. This includes your right to publicly advocate for a change in legislation, to take collective action on and off the job in order to win social change, and to study, disseminate, and learn from the history of the U.S. labor movement, including the histories of the heroic strikes against child labor, unsafe working conditions, for the eight-hour day, living wages, unemployment benefits, and government assistance in times of need, which advanced struggles against racial oppression and for the civil rights of all peoples.

The RPS Resolution on Collective Bargaining quotes Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. favorably: 

“The labor movement was the principal force that transformed misery and despair into hope and progress. Out of its bold struggles, economic and social reform gave birth to unemployment insurance, old-age pensions, government relief for the destitute and, above all, new wage levels that meant not mere survival but a tolerable life. The captains of industry did not lead this transformation; they resisted it until they were overcome. When in the thirties the wave of union organization crested over the nation, it carried to secure shores not only itself but the whole society.” 

However, it is important that we remember the 1968 strike of public sector workers in Memphis, Tennessee, led by AFSCME local 1733 – a strike which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. courageously joined, and in the course of which he was tragically assassinated – was an illegal strike. History teaches us that the law is not always on the side of justice; in fact, it is frequently on the side of tyranny. 

Section XII. Severability 

  • If anything in this contract were proven to be illegal or unenforceable, it would only nullify that section or provision and not the whole contract.
  • For example, if the U.S. Supreme Court deemed that Section XI of our CBA (which states that RPS may fire workers for “encouraging” a strike) was a violation of our First Amendment rights, then only Section XI would be removed.


You hold in your hands a guide to the first Collective Bargaining Agreement won by public sector workers in the state of Virginia since 1977. It was through the patient workplace organizing and grassroots collective action of REA members that we got this far. Now, we must not only defend what has been won, but push the struggle forward to win the schools Richmond students deserve. We must use our power not only to win equitable compensation for all RPS workers, but to improve the quality of public education by winning an equitable distribution of learning resources, smaller class sizes, community participation in school governance and administration, more educator autonomy and less bureaucracy, effective pedagogy, and an evaluation system that is based on a community of educators committed to further developing the art and science of teaching and learning through the sharing of constructive feedback among equals. We have made it this far: now let’s go all the way!