Teacher contract negotiations between the union, Tredyffrin Easttown Education Association (TEEA) and the T/E School District will not begin until 2012 but . . . apparently that has not slowed the filing of a labor dispute between the union and the school district.
Here is the abbreviated background on the lawsuit. In December 2009, the teacher union (TEEA) filed charges of unfair practices with the PA Labor Board against the T/E School District. The union alleged that the school district transferred some teacher’s work by offering students online computer courses, known as E-learning. The first year of the pilot program, in school year 2009-10, the school district offered four courses. In the 2010-11 school year, the program was expanded to 25 courses. In March 2010, the teacher union expanded its allegations to include the additional courses.
If I understand the union’s position, they contend that the school district was offering courses to students that should be taught by the teachers. The union contends that the work of instructing and assessing students taking online courses is no different than work performed by teachers in the classroom.
The school district argued that utilizing technology for E-learning courses falls outside the scope of teacher bargaining. They also defended their position on E-learning is no different than the district offering alternative physical education courses, in-home instruction due to illness or medical needs, community leadership classes, etc. It is my understanding that the online courses offered through E-Learning, were not courses that were ever instructed by teachers. Examples of special or advanced online courses selected by students included Constitutional Law, Arabic and Japanese. The school district viewed that meeting the needs of students with special or advanced courses as no different as meeting the needs of those students requiring homebound instruction. However, the labor dispute tells us that the teacher union disagreed with the school district.
During the last 12 months, testimony and hearings have been held between the union, the school district and the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board. Two weeks ago, in a Decision and Order from the PA Labor Relations Board, T/E School District was ordered to cease and desist the online coursework program (e-Learning); the order to become effective 20 days following the February 28, 2011 date on the order.
So what does this mean? If the school district accepted the February 28 decision from the Labor Board, the e-Learning program would end March 20, 2011. Those students currently enrolled in the program would have to end their courses and consequently, would not receive course credit. The school district is appealing the Labor Board decision. Because of the school district’s appeal, the current students enrolled in e-Learning programming will be able to complete their online courses and receive credit.
To read the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board decision, click here. Here is the official statement from the T/E School District:
Due to the outcome of a labor dispute between the T/E School District and the Tredyffrin Easttown Education Association (TEEA), the District will not be offering any online courses for the 2011-2012 school year. The TEEA claimed an unfair labor practice because the program allegedly transferred work outside the bargaining unit. The District asserted the right to design and implement programs of educational benefit to students. On February 28, 2011, the hearing officer ruled in favor of TEEA, and the District has been ordered to cease and desist its online coursework program. Because the District is appealing this decision, students currently enrolled in online courses will be able to continue for the current school year. However, absent a different outcome on appeal, the online course program will not be available in the 2011-2012 school year. Students who have applied for the online coursework program for 2011-2012 have been individually contacted by counselors.
Although the district has appealed the decision, it appears the e-Leaning program will not be available for 2011-12 school year. If the appeal is lost, the online programming will be suspended.
School districts are offering online coursework programming across the country. With advanced technology, is this something that we believe should be part of the district curriculum? According to the labor dispute filing, the school district paid a range of $300 – $800 per student depending upon the course and the length of the course. Certainly, online programming is less expensive than the hiring of a teacher for one or two students wishing to take a particular course.
Is there not a responsibility for the school district to meet the needs of all students . . . whether it is a homebound student, a physically challenged student or a student who requires advanced coursework that cannot be offered by the district, due to specific problems, such as enrollment requirements?
With a labor dispute and the ongoing angst that the situation causes between the school district and the teacher union, what will this say for the future of the contract negotiations?
Cost — how much has the school district expended on legal fees to date fighting this labor dispute? In this economic climate, can the taxpayers afford this legal battle?
I am struggling to understand why the Labor Board made their decision. If these online courses were not previously taught in the district, and if there is not sufficient enrollment for these specific courses to be taught, than how is it affecting the teachers? And no curriculum/programming cuts were made to accommodate the e-Learning program.
What’s the saying, ‘pick your battles’? With teacher contract negotiations next year, was this the battle the teacher union needed to pick.
Additional educational notes:
There is an important T/E School District Finance Meeting this Monday, March 14.
State Sen. Andy Dinniman has come out with a statement concerning Gov. Corbett’s budget and the impact of the budget cuts to public education. I plan to address Dinniman remarks and the effects that the budget cuts will have on area school districts. Sen. Dinniman has made his feelings about the education cuts public and we also know that he supports school vouchers, albeit with admendments. If you recall last week, I sent an email to State Rep. Warren Kampf asking him for a statement in regards to school vouchers. I have not heard from Rep. Kampf, however earlier this week I spoke to his Chief of Staff, Sean Dempsy. Dempsy told me that Rep. Kampf had received my email and would issue a response to me by the end of the week. So I will look forward to Rep. Kampf’s email by the end of today.