Kudos to Unionville-Chadds Ford School District . . . For Openness & Transparency on Teacher Contract Negotiations

I have previously written about Unionville-Chadds Ford School District (UCFSD) and the ongoing contract negotiations between their school board and the teachers’ union, Unionville-Chadds Ford Education Association (UCFEA).  Although there has not been a definite agreement, both sides continue to meet and discuss.

A wide economic gap exists between what the UCFSD School Board is willing to offer and what the teachers union is willing to accept.  The last round of discussion centered on an independent Fact-Finders Report from early February, which the UCFSD voted to accept, and the union rejected. The union’s rejection of the report ultimately derailed the proposed settlement and the three-year contract remained ‘up in the air’.  The school district has spent thousands of dollars in legal fees and administrators time in the contract negotiation process.

However, post-Fact Finders Report, Gov. Corbett’s proposed budget cuts to public education has now forced UCFSD to reconsider and take their original offer “off the table” and replace it with a more affordable contract.  However, since UCFEA had already rejected the Fact-Finders Report and UCFSD’s offer, it would seem highly unlikely that the teachers will accept the reduced contract offer from the district.

In my opinion, UCFSD School Board receives high marks on their openness and transparency in their contract negotiations with the teachers union and their willingness to share the process with the taxpayers. The UCFSD School Board has provided an updated contract negotiation statement, which presents an easy-to-understand 5-page document that includes a ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ section.  An interesting fact – the entry-level salary for a teacher in UCFSD is $47,743; average teacher’s salary is $75,798 and maximum teacher’s salary is $101,427.  Approximately 70 of the 330 teachers earn the maximum salary.  If you add in the compensation package, the average teacher’s salary jumps to $97,092 and the highest paid teacher’s salary rises to $125K a year.

The UCFSD School Board believes that they have to protect the taxpayer’s money and object to the union’s contract requests for the following reasons:

1) The request is out-of-line due to the economic conditions – the teachers union is requesting a compensation increase of 4% -7%.

2) The requested contract is not economically sustainable due to Act 1 restrictions.

3) The district does not believe that they have to increase the contract to the level requested to attract excellent teachers.

The school board has determined that they cannot ignore these three objections because taxes will not sufficiently cover the contract.  They do not think that given the economic climate, a special voter referendum would pass with voter support.

Interesting, that the UCFSD update includes TESD in their budget and teacher union contract discussion:

“One only need look a few miles north to Tredyffrin / Easttown School District (TESD) to see what happens when an economically unsustainable teacher contract is signed. The preliminary budget submitted by TESD reflects a 4.2% tax increase, which is the maximum they are allowed by law, and will result in drastic educational program cuts and still leave a budget shortfall of more that $8 million. The UCFSD School Board will not put our district in that predicament with an unaffordable contract.”

The current offer from UCFSD to the UCFEA for a three-year contract includes a salary freeze for Year 1, 1% increase, full step movement mid-year for Year 2 plus a 10% employee contribution for health care, 1% increase, full step movement mid-year  for Year 3 plus a 15% employee contribution for health care.  The gap between USCFSD and USFEA is obvious.

What impresses me about the USFSD School Board is their willingness to keep the community involved in the contract negotiation process.  Because taxpayers are updated on the contract negotiations, there appears to be greater public dialogue during the process.  I know in the past, contract negotiations have always occurred behind closed doors; I am hopeful that TESD School Board will similarly keep our community informed as the calendar moves ever closer to contract negotiation season.

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  1. I noticed that under the “status quo” the district still has to deal with a 2% to 4% increase in teacher costs just due to the rise in PSERS and health care costs. That’s the best TE can do under the next contract. It underscores the importance of not signing a contract that is too rich. You are stuck with it forever – you can’t reverse a bad contract decision.

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