Today marks the first day for teachers striking in the Neshaminy School District. Over in Neshaminy, the teachers are starting the week on the picket line; also marking the second strike of the year. If you recall, in January the Neshaminy teachers were on strike for 8 days. The Neshaminy teachers and the school district have been locked in a vicious contract debate for 4 years with neither side willing to budge – sticking points in the bitter contract dispute is healthcare and salary. It is my understanding that the teachers want a 5% salary increase retroactively for the last 4 years. Additionally, the teachers healthcare package is completely funded by the taxpayers. The Neshaminy teachers have said that they will contribute to their healthcare costs going forward. However, it should be noted that I can find reference to the teacher’s offer to help with healthcare expenses but I am unable to find anything in writing to that effect.
As I wrote in January of this year, the teachers in the Neshaminy School District are the highest paid in the state but if we look at PSSA results, the Neshaminy School District doesn’t even make the top 50 in the state, coming in at number 245 among Pennsylvania’s 500 districts. Over half of the Commonwealth’s school districts have outperformed Neshaminy on PSSA tests for the last 10 years. Compare that to Tredyffrin Easttown School District and the ranking of third in the state. If the highest paid teachers, working in a school district that underperforms 50% of all other school districts in the state, are willing to strike twice in 6 months … what does that mean for other districts with teacher contracts pending?
Should the reward for the excellent education students receive in Tredyffrin Easttown School District be the threat to our teachers of demotion? Some readers have suggested on Community Matters, that the school district has nothing left as a contract negotiating tool but the threat of demotion and the increase in class size. The teacher’s contract is up in less than 30 days, June 30. As a community, are we prepared for a similar battleground as Neshaminy School District has experienced for the last 4 years? Isn’t there a better way?
I used to think a teacher’s strike was not possible in T/E – my Pollyanna view of the world believed that both sides would somehow just ‘work it out’, agree on the contract and everyone would be happy. I no longer think that outcome is likely to happen. If, … the T/E school board decides to demote any of the seasoned, senior members of T/E teaching staff (for economic reasons), I truly believe that the road ahead may well lead to a District teachers strike. I don’t claim to have a crystal ball so here’s hoping that my hunch is wrong and that there is still hope for peaceful resolution in the days to come.