teacher strike

No School for Students in Methacton School District – Teacher Strike Continues

Teachers in the Methacton School District have been working without a contract since January.   A stalemate in the bargain process led to the strike Monday by the teachers as authorized by its union, Methacton Education Association (MEA).

There are 5,000 students enrolled in the Methacton School District. The union represents 403 teachers and professional staff.

Issues being negotiated include salary, benefits, class size, teacher-student ratio and team teaching.  The talks broke down when the two sides failed to come to an agreement on how much teachers should pay for their health insurance.  The teachers argue that their salaries are in the lower range of salaries and the school district is expecting them to pay for health care as if they were in the upper range.

The teachers are using a pay freeze and delayed salary increases in the previous two four-year contracts, as examples of concessions from teachers that allowed the district to improve their finances dramatically and are unwilling to see this happen again.

The MEA released the following statement prior to striking:

The Methacton Education Association (MEA) is disappointed to announce that they were unable to reach an agreement with the School Board after the two sides bargained all afternoon and into the early evening on Sunday to avoid the potential of a work stoppage scheduled to start tomorrow.

The School Board’s position of dramatically increasing the employee’s share of the healthcare premium while not adequately increasing salaries is unacceptable to the Association. MEA was willing to increase premium share by over 23% in 3 years but that was not sufficient to the District.

In the end, MEA had 30 minutes to consider the final proposal of the Board and was more than willing to bargain later than the arbitrary 8PM deadline.

The strike will commence tomorrow at 7:30AM. MEA is willing to bargain with the District throughout the work stoppage.

It is unclear when the teachers will return to the classrooms. Pennsylvania State Department of Education rules will prevent the work stoppage from going past 15 days.  A state mediator is now involved to coordinate the exchange of proposals between parties.

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Community Matters Not Going Anywhere — ‘Our Collective Voices’ Matter!

Community Matters was down for about 4 hours yesterday, causing some regular readers to speculate that either I had voluntarily closed the site down or, that someone had  forced its closure.  For those prone to conspiracy theories, concerns heightened when it was discovered that the township’s website was also down.  I have no idea what caused the township website to go off-line but it is possible that the problem, was the same as for Community Matters.  Go Daddy, one of the largest Internet hosting firms, had major technical difficulties yesterday, which resulted in 5 million of their sites (including Community Matters) to go down.  An anonymous hacker is claiming responsibility for the service disruption.

So, for those who would wish otherwise, I remain stoic in my resolve … our ‘collective voices’ are important in this community.  Community ‘matters’ and our voices are part of this community.  In the last couple of days, I  have been in contact with two members of the Board of Supervisors in regards to (1) the use of the township website by a supervisor for personal messages and the policy (procedure) for such usage and (2) the communication I received from our township manager, which was posted on Community Matters.  My hope is that the Board of Supervisors will address my concerns, and those of many in the community, prior to their next meeting on Monday, September 17.  One thing I can say with absolute certainty is that what happened last week will not be forgotten.  The offensive letter may be off the township website, but its damage is not easily erased. At this point … I say, stay tuned.

Moving forward, I could not help but think about our own school district as a I watched the news yesterday and the striking teachers from Chicago’s 675 public schools.  As I understand it, Chicago teacher union leaders and district officials were not far apart in their negotiations on compensation.  But other issues – including potential changes to health care benefits and a new teacher evaluation system based partly on students’ standardized test scores, remain unresolved. Chicago teachers object to their jobs and performance being tied to students’ standardized test scores.

In T/E School District, on September 5, members of the school board and Tredyffrin Easttown Education Association (TEEA) reached a tentative agreement on the contract.  The existing contract expired on June 30.  The public will not see the agreement until both sides ratify the tentative agreement.  I am not sure why the delay, but it will be about 6 weeks until the school board votes on the tentative agreement at their October 22 school board meeting.  Presumably, at that point, the contents of the agreement will be released to the public.

The TESD Finance Committee held their first meeting of the 2012-13 school year last night. for 2012-13 year was held on Monday night. Thank you to Ray Clarke for attending and providing his notes to Community Matters.

First, a few miscellaneous items I jotted down:

  • We got an unbudgeted $330,000 refund from Blue Cross.  This flows from mysterious BC prior year accounting which has in other years resulted in a charge.  This is a nice non-recurring bonus (especially since we are now self-insured).
  • Federal revenues from the ACCESS program were also $300,000 more than budget.
  • The risk from new commercial assessment appeals remains, and a $1.4 million reduction is included in the budget
  • Residential appeals of about 150 parcels is at about the same rate as last year and we’ve lost $56,000 from about a quarter of these settled so far.  The reduction is less than it was last year, though.
  • The district is appealing 23 commercial assessments; the historical success rate has not been high (~10%, I think).
  • At this early stage, the administration sees no need to use the $5.15 million “budgetary reserve”.
  • Over the last couple of years we have actively managed bus routes to reduce the need by 5 buses (down to 105) – a saving of $250,000 a year.  This success makes me think that it would be nice to see a short table of the results of all the budget strategies.

The Financial Report did not include any impact of the tentative TEEA contract agreement.  I was told that this could not be done, since anything would be “speculation” until the Board votes on the contract.  Dr Waters said that releasing tentative contract details would be counter to “40 years of history”.  Dr Motel said that the Board has complete authority to enter into an agreement, regardless of what their constituents think.  There was no explanation of why the secrecy is in the interests of the district or of the taxpayers.

It strikes me that if 40 years of history was always the guide, then most CM readers would never have got the right to vote.  How is it that the beneficiaries of a contract have the ability to review and approve it, but the people paying for that contract do not?  Every other budget item gets months of public discussion.  We heard tonight a report of the revenues from advertising, which was debated ad nauseam for 2 years and has just now realized its first revenues of $760 (over two years).  Every year the $10,000 or $20,000 cost of PSBA membership is discussed in multiple meetings.  The TEEA contract represents one-third of total expenses for just salaries alone (and probably influences double that), yet we have no chance to give our representatives our opinion?

So that leaves us to speculate for ourselves.  My thought is that the back-end loading of the tentative deal busts the budget far beyond the maximum tax increase will allow, and leaves the post-election mess for the next school board generation to sort out

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T/E Teachers Union Appeals to School Board to Accept Fact Finder Report

President of Tredyffrin Easttown Education Association (TEEA Laura Whittaker has released the following appeal in advance of Monday’s TESD vote on the Fact Finders report.  The statement urges the school board to vote to accept the report at the special meeting.  Whittaker claims that the school board has not moved from their original position of last February although TEEA has offered “significant financial sacrifices”.

The clock is ticking down to September 4, the first day of school.  If the school board does not vote to accept the Fact Finder’s report, is a teachers strike on the horizon … ?  

Board’s decision to reject impartial Fact Finder’s report further exposes its inflexibility

Tredyffrin-Easttown Education Association President Laura Whittaker is calling on the members of the Tredyffrin-Easttown School District board to reverse their decision to reject an impartial Fact Finder’s report intended to settle the district’s expired contract with TEEA members.

In the fact-finding process, a neutral, third-party arbitrator reviewed the contract proposals of each side and made recommendations intended to settle the expired contract. The review took 40 days. Once the fact finder issued the report, each party had 10 days to accept or reject the fact finder’s recommendations.

The TESD board rejected the report at its August 9th meeting, and will vote again on the issue during its Monday, August 20, special school board meeting. The meeting starts at 8 p.m. in at the Tredyffrin-Easttown Administrative Offices.

TEEA members voted to accept the Fact Finder’s report even though it contained significant financial sacrifices on their behalf, including approximately $500,000 in lost wages, a reduction in health care benefits, and a loss of tuition reimbursement for professional development.

“School board members have not met with us, and they rejected the Fact Finder’s report without having moved from the original proposal they gave their negotiator in February.  They now have another opportunity to vote to settle this contract,” Whittaker said.

Whittaker urges all members of the T/E school community to turn out for Monday night’s school board meeting and make their voices heard. “Parents do not want their children’s education interrupted because of the school board’s stubborn inflexibility,” she said.

“If the board would be reasonable and accept the impartial Fact Finder’s report, it would assure that the school year can start on time and without disruption,” Whittaker said.

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Local Teacher Union Gives 48-Hour Strike Notice

We have been following the Unionville-Chadds Ford (U-CF) School District this week; their ongoing teacher contract negotiations and independent fact-finding report. (The teacher’s contract expired last June). The school board voted unanimously to accept the report and the school district union, Unionville-Chadds Ford Education Association voted not to accept. How long can the teachers continue to work without a contract?  Until a new contract is signed, do the teachers work under the conditions of the old contract?  If both sides are at a stalemate, I am curious what the next step is.

Teachers in Montgomery County’s Perkiomen Valley School District have likewise been working without a contract since last June.  The school board and the teachers union in this Collegeville school district also received a fact-finding report from the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board last month.  Like U-CF school board, the Perkiomen Valley School Board unanimously approved the fact-finding report; and like the U-CF teacher’s union, their union, Perkiomen Valley Education Association (PVEA) rejected the fact-finding report.  The report recommended a three-year contract, with an average in $6.564 in raises over the three years and changes in the amount teachers are reimbursed for tuition.

Negotiations between school administrators and the teachers union reached an impasse. Late today, the teachers in the Perkiomen Valley School District gave notice that they intend to strike next week if no deal is reached this weekend.  The PVEA issued a 48-hour strike notice, which means a strike could begin on Tuesday.

The teachers’ union and school administrators in Perkiomen Valley School District are meeting with a state mediator over the next few days in homes of reaching a “fair and reasonable” settlement.  I visited the PVEA union website and it was interesting to note that the Perkiomen Valley School District has spent $55K to date on legal fees regarding the current teacher contract negotiations. 

I am certain that the administration and teachers in the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District are closely monitoring the strike threat in Collegeville. 

Is this a sign of our times or evidence of what is to come . . . ?

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