With only a few days remaining in June, it does not appear that a new contract will be signed in the T/E School District by the June 30 deadline. According to the Tredyffrin-Easttown Education Association (TEEA), attempts to resolve the contract differences between the school board and teachers have reached an impasse, and therefore they are requesting independent fact-finding from the PA State Labor Board.
On Monday, June 18, TEEA made a 2-year “off the record” proposal to the school board that “… included a reduction in health care benefits, an increase in health care premium share including a shift to percentage-share, a reduction in advanced studies assistance, and a full salary freeze in the first year. In return, TEEA asked for salary schedule advancement for non-master teachers in year two, a one-year-only “off-schedule” salary premium for master teachers in year two, and “no-demotions” language for the duration of the contract. This offer was rejected.”
The counter-offer from the school board asked the teachers for a salary reduction, approximately $8,000 per teachers. According to TEEA, the reduction could equal as much as 13% for some of their members. Earlier in the month, the teachers had agreed to modify their contract regarding tuition reimbursement. Their offer which was accepted and at last week’s School Board meeting, a Memorandum of Understanding was entered into which modified the existing contract for one year. The MOU represented a savings of more than $400K; as a result, teacher demotions were taken off the table as a budget strategy.
It has becoming increasingly more common for PA teacher unions to take the route to request an independent arbitrator from the PA Labor Relations Board. Under Act 195, this is a process used to resolve contract negotiations when the parties have reached an impasse. The severe economic times and decreasing revenue are creating major challenges for school districts; therefore making reasonable teacher negotiations almost impossible. As I understand the process, the independent arbitrator will hear both sides, with TEEA and the School Board presenting evidence to support their position. Based on the fact-finding, the Labor Relations Board will issue a report containing their findings along with recommendations for settlement. It should be noted that the report is non-binding and the recommendations require the approval of both TEEA and the School Board.
According to a recent Daily Local article, West Chester teachers and their school board are also far apart on their new contract negotiations. Like T/E School District, Jeffrey Sultanik is serving as West Chester School District’s chief negotiator.
However, unlike TEEA, the West Chester Area Education Association is proposing a salary increase of 18.3% over the course of the 3-year contract, with a cost of living increase plus a salary step movement equating to 5.57% increase first year, 5.81% increase in year 2 and 3. The union is also requested expanded health care benefits and additional pay for meetings and a reduction of 2 work days. All I can say is WOW! I have to believe that TEEA and our School Board are not nearly as far apart as the School Board and union in West Chester.