Pattye Benson

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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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  1. A strong move by the TEEA. Making a threat without actually making a threat – putting blame for any “disruption” – that only the union can cause – on the Board. You have to admire the tactic.

    However, the cause itself may be a tougher win for the union. My informal poll of the different blog community over at TE Patch suggests that the union may have overplayed its hand. And it will be hard to mobilize through the schools and PTOs when the students are not in school.

    It will be very helpful to all concerned if the Board on Monday has the Administration quantify all the issues in dispute. I hope every Board member can explain their position in the light of that data.

  2. I’m surprised at the one-sided nature of the TE Patch comments. Let’s see if the other side dominates at the Board meeting. The public mood may have changed in favor of the Board since UCF entered the status quo two years ago.
    I wouldn’t worry about a strike for at least a year, if at all. It’s the threat of the strike and the anxiety it causes for parents and the resultant pressure on the Board that is important to the union; not the strike. Before a strike there will be a “unity” gathering where the teachers march en mass into school, a well publicized strike authorization vote, informational handouts at back to school night, then work to contract for several months. The union leadership has to gauge whether they have the support of the rank and file for a strike.

  3. “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.”

    1. Lost wages for days they would not work….which they claim to have offered themselves last year but would not put in writing. Not being paid for not working to me is not a sacrifice.

    2. Reduction in health care benefits: which right now are so over the top they cost 25% of the average pay, with no deductibles and no coinsurance. The “loss” they would experience is far less than the rest of the world pays in deductibles.

    3. Loss of reimbursement for professional development means the district will not pay for them to take courses which they apply to the salary matrix for raises.

    All of these “sacrifices” are real, but hardly sacrifice. This is a NEW CONTRACT and therefore referencing what you HAD as a baseline is disingenuous. Ask about how much the district paid for your pension plan last year, and what they will pay for it next year….all the money is back in a blink.

    1. In response to your three bullet points:
      1) The teachers need to work to support their families. Another post references non student days as if they are not needed. I think the teachers are working on curriculum updates on those days.
      2) Teachers currently pay some premuim cost and have copays and deductibles. FF increases these amounts which the teachers evidently voted to pay.
      3) Movement on the salary matrix requires completion of several courses taken over a period of time. Looking at the salary schedule, it appears to be increments of primarily 30 hours with degrees being earned. They do have to work in order to earn these degrees. Given current economics, I agree that continuing education may be an area which affects current student achievement the least.

      Recent history of PSERS contributions, say 2000 and forward, shows that employee contributions far outweighed district contributions. Notable years 2001 through 2003 show contribution rates bt school districts of less than 2% while employees contributed, on average, almost 7%. This information is publically available

      1. I read this blog a lot, and overall it seems that their is a lot of negativity directed towards teachers. I understand the discussion and debate of logistical and economic factors/elements, but it seems that many comments are personal…comments that question the difficulty of the job, the motives of the teachers, and their work ethic. I don’t believe those comments are fair. I can guarantee you that the overwhelming majority are extremely hard working, put in hours way beyond what they are contracted, and care deeply about the growth of their students. Are their some teachers who are past their prime, or don’t live up to the standards set by the rest?…of course there are! But what job, professional, field, industry, etc…doesn’t have that. It seems that people feel the need to highlight the negative aspects of 3% of the teaching population, rather than remember the positives of the other 97%.

        Sorry for the rant, but I drive by Devon Elementary twice everyday and for the last week or so the parking lot has been filled with cars. It just made me think, everyone always says teachers get off the entire summer, their jobs are so easy, etc, etc. Yes, 8 weeks off is an AMAZING benefit of the job, but at the same time, they are in there weeks before school starts, all day long, preparing for the school year. They aren’t contracted for this time, they don’t have to be there, but they are…because that’s what it takes for them to be ready and prepared to educate our children. They have no contract, they don’t know how the beginning of the year is going to be affected, but they are still in there preparing for another year…

        1. Pete –

          As one of the most frequent and knowledgeable posters on this blog has pointed out many times, teachers essentially run a six hour meeting every day. Anyone who has ever run meetings with children knows how difficult and important that is. I know a little bit about meetings – I used to run a two hour Boy Scout meeting every week. If I wanted to achieve a good meeting – one in which the kids had fun, were safe, and learned something valuable – I had to put in at least two, and often three or four hours of preparation beforehand. That was just my time. My time was spent primarily setting up others who would do the actual work. Others who helped with the meeting put in their own prep time, so in “man hours” the prep for the meeting was far greater than four hours.

          I don’t think any of the frequent posters are questioning the motives or difficulty of the job as you suggest. I think we all value good teachers. I certainly do!

          I can recall several EXCELLENT teachers my kids had. I can also recall a couple of real duds. The problem is it is nearly impossible to get rid of the bad ones.

          Also, it is not anti teacher to point out the current economic realities. If an affordable contract cannot be achieved, the cuts will come from the kids – in the form of larger class sizes, less program opportunites, fewer services, and so on.

        2. Pete T
          Before you celebrate this extensive effort on their own time, I would ask you to pop into DEVON and ask around. I can almost guarantee almost everyone in the building is there on the clock…workshops or summer school or administrators. There is a contracted mandatory summer academy for some employees, and they tend to accumulate at one location to save on utility costs.
          And teachers do run a 6 hour meeting. In their contractual day, they have preparation time. Any good teacher absolutely puts in long hours. Doesn’t anyone who wants to do a good job? And when it comes time to contribute on your behalf to a retirement plan, isn’t it typically decided based on the company profitability? A contribution that goes from 8.65 to over 28% of annual salaries is not optional for THIS employer, but these employees will not acknowledge those numbers in their demands.

        3. Township Reader,

          My car is one of those that Pete saw in the parking lot today, and I can verify that the majority of the cars in the parking lot are teacher’s. I am a classroom teacher at Devon, and I can tell you that there are no workshops going on, all of the summer programs are over, the contractors finished their work on the playground last week, and summer academy is not there and doesn’t exist in the same way that it used to (summer academy for new employees used to be a week long, but now it is only a day). The custodians, principal, and secretaries are the only non teachers in the building. I would say there were about twenty teachers working in the school today, and none of them were on the clock.

          I don’t want praise for this, but just wanted to clarify what is really going on for TR, and save Pete some time tomorrow (now you don’t have to stop in, but you can if you want)

      2. TT,
        Please review the PSERS contribution rates for dates other than 2000 to 2009. That’s the range, of course, that the union quotes because it’s the only period when teacher contributions exceed taxpayer contributions. Look at any 20 or 30 year period and you’ll find that taxpayer contributions far exceed teacher contributions.
        Pete T.,
        Could you point out the messages on this blog that, “question the difficulty of the job, the motives of the teachers, and their work ethic.”

        1. Well Keith, I have been reading the blog over the last six months, and there have been over fifteen entries related to the contract, each having between 20 – 60 comments. unlike you, I don’t have the time to troll the blog and look at every post again, but if i do have time, I will go back and find some examples for you.

      3. I know Matt S who commented above and his word is good. My child had him and he is a hardworking teacher. That being said, I wish the teachers would realize that not all of us in T/E are making six figures. We have had job losses in our family and we pay HUGE insurance premiums. My spouse and I fall WELL short of six figure salaries even though we work very hard. My family is on an HMO because we can’t afford the “Cadillac” Personal Choice plan which would allow us to get the best care for our kids.. The HMO is still costing us $400 a month out of pocket and we work full-time at big companies! And I will not be able to retire at 55 with a big pension. I’ll be lucky if I can retire at 75 and pay my rent and groceries.

        My father is 72 and he is still working full-time (and not by choice). I would absolutely love to be a teacher and have all the great benefits. I know it is a hard job, but the payoff is enormous in terms of lifelong security and family time (summers and school holidays off to spend with your kids).

        I think we have some good teachers in T/E, but I would like them to understand what the past five years have been like for the families and students in the District. What it’s like in the real world outside the protection of a teacher’s union. The union’s “fact finding” is creating the image that we all drive Range Rovers, belong to Waynesborough and have shore homes in Avalon or Stone Harbor. Come to dinner at my house (mac ‘n cheese, probably), look at the worn furnishings and eight-year-old cars, help me strategize over how I am going to afford the Williamsburg trip this year and college tuition someday.

        1. Amanda, well said. I know you will figure it all out even if it costs you some sleepless nights and stomach cramps. Most of us non range rover drivers go through that.. And the cost of college…. pepto anyone?

  4. TT – to address your response to my points:

    1. Teachers work to support their families. Why do you think anyone works? We are all influenced by market forces, except people who want contracts without regar5d to available revenues. So, as to the days? Who cares? Those non-student contact days have been used over the years to get more for more. When teachers demanded certain wage increases, the district accomodated them in my cases by adding days. They used to come in during the summer, sign in and get paid for a day. They added calendar days to avoid that. And when do you do your work? Do you ever stay after 5? Do you get comp time if you come in on a weekend?

    2. Teachers have zero deductibles. The plan has ZERO deductibles. The plan has NO co-insurance. It has copays. It is FIRST DOLLAR COVERAGE. The teachers have offered all the way up to 8% cost sharing on again a very expensive plan. The FF career was spent as an NLRB lawyer prosecuting unfair labor practice complaints. I think his “worker bias” is a bit more than obvious.

    3. Up until now, the district pays for the courses. They get raises every 15 credits. There are Masters, M+15, M+30, M+45, M+60 and PhD. So after paying for 15 credits, the district gives you a raise. They want to stop doing that. Isn’t that a managerial right?

    PSERS contributions on the part of the teachers means nothing in this debate. It’s their pension. They bear no risk in market declines, and to keep districts from going bankrupt after the 2000 pension change (2 to 2.5%), the PSERS contributions were manipulated. It is of little interest to taxpayers that their pension is underfunded, because in fact, their pension is not economically sustainable. Fact is, teachers do not need to save for retirement, because the taxpayer covers it. Most teachers will receive at least 75% of their full salary at retirement, and can earn upwards of 100%. The issue is not what the teachers contributed — it’s why the teachers do not consider the pension contribution made by taxpayers as part of their compensation. The district is tasked with upping the contribution significantly over the next 10 years, and that is not even factored into the TEEA proposals. They bargain strictly on a base salary and the base value of their health care benefits. They look for smaller raises, and will contribute marginally more to their health care (but still bear no risk in the cost of the insurance, as they do not take on any exposure if the costs rise).
    Bottom line: It’s what teachers cost, not what they make.

  5. I think the teachers will work on the status quo for as long as possible. Why wouldn’t they?

    Structural change must happen. There really is no other alternative. On previous posts, a lot of screeching was made on how the teachers would leave and our wonderful education would be finished. I asked where they would go and never go an answer. The answer is they will go nowhere.

    It is not pleasant but it is the reality. All the foot stomping in the world won’t change it. They can delay things for a while longer but in the end structural change will happen.

    All over the country this is beginning to happen. By the way, political affliation doesn’t even come into play anymore. It is now a matter of simple math. Even blue states, cities and muni’s are making serious changes.

  6. Matt S
    Thanks. That’s good to hear. I think so much of what is going on is about frustration and personal pain. The result is most definitely going to show up in various ways, including teacher bashing. But it’s not about any teacher — it’s about a broken system. The state took away the ability to tax for expenditures and created some third party number to live with. All well and good, but the pressure to not increase taxes does not mitigate the demands for high quality.
    I would suggest that the teachers in the building at Devon feel they are treated as professionals by Dr. Tobin, and respond in kind. The reality is that everyone has to work hard — harder than they ever did — to keep this economy floating. We can find all sorts of anecdotal evidence that things are bad or that things are improving — but each of us has our own personal journey.
    On behalf of our community, let me thank you for going the extra yard — because TE is about excellence, not just doing your job. And being excellent doesn’t survive complacency. People teach because they love it, but if they stop loving it, or believe they are not fairly compensated, they absolutely should leave the profession or the district. Market forces make corrections — but not overnight. And Act 1 prevents the district from recovering without making cuts. Someone tonight said it was sad to have to dismantle the district. We are not alone. Districts that claim to be doing okay are fooling themselves or their taxpayers. Compensation is a broad term.

  7. so what was the motivation behind the state taking away the right to tax for expenditures? Was there a political push by those with out children in the schools that live in communities to protect, if thats the right word, seniors from being taxed out of their homes? Seems interesting because as strong as the teachers union is in this state, they could not or did not see the writing on the wall vis a vis the limited amount of taxing ability available to fund their profession. ?

    1. FF- It was short sighted on the teachers. I am pretty sure that when the teachers union agreed to Act 1, it came with the bump in the multplyer from 2% to 2.5%.

      1. I don’t believe that the teachers union agreed to act 1. I don’t recall exactly when the multiplier was increased, but if memory serves, it was well before act 1. The Pennsylvania legislature had been working on tax relief schemes for decades, responding to pressure from senior citizens and others fed up with rising property taxes. Their first statute was act 50, passed in the late 1990’s (’98 I think). This was an effort to get around the Pennsylvania constitution’s equal taxation requirement in order to give tax relief to seniors. Act 50 created the “homestead/farmstead” exemption for that purpose. School districts had to opt in, and act 50 was a dismal failure because so few districts chose to opt in. This was followed by act 72 in 2004 and finally act 1 in 2006. All of these schemes had similar elements, ballot referendums, income taxes shifting burden from propert taxes, gambling revenue, and so on. Very complicated and problematic, which is why so few option in when it was voluntary (acts 50 and 72). Act 1 forced everyone into the scheme.

        Bottom line, there are many players and power groups pressuring the legislature, and the unions, while powerful, are not the only players. A lot of this traces back to longstanding taxpayer dissatisfaction and demands for property tax relief. I doubt the unions would ever have agreed to act 1. My guess us they did not have the power to stop it. It would be like trying to stop a charging grizzly with a handful of rocks, or a locomotive with your bare hands. The taxpayer revolt is a political fact we all have to deal with, made more urgent by the decline in revenues brought about by the economy.

    2. Act 1 was about “property tax reform” primarily on behalf of seniors. But those that write legislation at the state level typically don’t understand the realities on the ground. They gave taxpayers relief, but it is not accompanied by the tools necessary to modify labor costs. So you choke off revenue without a legal way to reduce expenses while preserving programs.
      Autos, steel, education: 3 industries controlled by unions.The government bailed out the auto industry by basically freeing it of legacy pension and health care costs. The steel industry is all but gone. So we are left with education, which affects everyone but has no strategic direction to fix it in this soft economy. Legacy pension costs and a workforce that believes they are being disrespected because of this massive change in approach….not exactly a perfect storm, but cataclysmic nonetheless.

      1. Exactly – they capped taxes without addressing cost control. Sadly, the result may well be that the budget gets balanced at the expense of kids and programs. Political realities again – we are the second “grayest” state after Florida and seniors vote. Young people do not, as a general rule. Not saying seniors should not get some tax relief – that is a worthy goal and was well intended. But the methods were all wrong. When the demographic which has the most stake in preserving public education does not vote or get involved politically, their concerns do not get considered sufficiently by the legislature. Even now we still do not see or hear a great hue and cry from the younger voters, the ones with school age children. There may eventually be a huge backlash, but I fear that a lot more cuts will have to be made before this demographic wakes up.

  8. Kevin
    I went beyond my 3 minutes…. because Karen C. said it will take two austere years….but those two years accomplish exactly nothing in the projections. This is just another dance to the same music….PSEA has their talking points, and Mr. Sultanik has his talking points. It’s all so insulting to rational people.
    They cannot fix this by upping prescription copays to $12….or asking for $2500 for family coverage. In the 4th year on the projection, the medical costs for the district with a wage freeze for all are 37% of salaries. The projected deficit in that year is $13-15M, depending on whose figures you use.

    SO — dismantle the district, disrespect the staff, confuse the parents, generate pain ….with no relief in site. IF we are going to fix this, we need a change of strategy, not whittling it down. Mr. Sultanik is a paid attack dog. He does his job well. Ms. Waldie (the PSEA uniserve rep) has danced with him before — and they clearly just read from the same script. So why does anyone expect a new result?

    Our teachers have never had the board refuse to talk to them at the table — but our board has never had grievances exposing the district to $3M on the table. The general impression of the teachers is that this is about breaking them. The general impression of the board is that this is about ignoring reality.

    Sound like progress?

    The district has a 3 year proposal that is draconian…sort of…and accomplishes nothing. It reduces the increases and bets on a return of transfer tax. Nothing more.

    1. Andrea – The district cannot afford status quo, which is where we remain until a new contract is in effect. It is August, not January. Year 1 is balanced by transfering money from funds. Demotions would be permitted for economic reasons in years 2 and 3. I prefer the employee contributions for healthcare be higher, but they are planned to increase each year. I hope future boards continue to raise the employee contribution so that it is competetive as opposed to a stipend. Perhaps healthcare coverage will move to defined contribution as opposed to defined benefit as was posed last night.

  9. Andrea. your voice of pessimism transmits over the written word. You may be right.. it may have to be dismantled. Draconian, yes. But if the model is kaput, you have to throw it away and start anew… big shakeup coming.. or just incredibly deeper debt. Why do I have disdain for even my favorite teachers now? And that 3 mil grievance? Maybe dismantling is too good of a word.

    1. I have learned a lot by following this story for the past few months. I am left with the sense that T/E teachers have a huge sense of entitlement.

      They have so much and are still holding their hands out for more. And nothing will ever be enough.

  10. FF and CP
    This should not give you any pause about your favorite teachers. We are all victims of a system that is broken. How can you look at recall elections around the country and see attack ads on TV about 5 trillion more in federal debt and not just know that the country, like so many of its citizens, lives on credit. Lay away was a fixture in retail growing up, but went away with easy credit. Well — it’s back. The union is really at the mercy of the state direction — these are teachers, not negotiators. These are educators — not strategic problem solvers.
    CP — I agree that the district cannot afford the status quo — but I want very badly for the proposal we agree to to actually fix something. Under your scenario, demotions are the only fix available. You cannot demote or tax your way out of this. It has to be a major overhaul, and as I said last night, and will say to anyone who will listen — the $15M on health care, which rises to $20M under this new proposal — is the place to pitch our tent and do it a new way. We can change that number without dismantling the program, and we can work with the TEEA to ensure that no one will have catastrophic outcomes. But with deductibles, they will have risk. They have first dollar coverage right now. They pay X for their premium share, and that’s it. That is not cost efficient nor sensible. Married teachers cost 50% more than single teachers. There is a way to get at this — we just need some creative minds to consider it.

    Am I pessimistic. Not really. We will get a settlement. It just won’t settle much unless we do it now. Consider this — pegging health care coverage to transfer tax revenue rebounds. There are ways to share the sacrifice, but also the rebound that our projections so clearly need.

    1. Andrea – This is not “my” scenario. It is the latest proposal by the board. I merely pointed out that the board has provided some points of relief. The taxpayers do not get to vote on or approve any proposals offered by the board. The taxpayer does get to vote on the members of the board. In other postings I’ve stated that the terms of the old contract should no longer be the starting point for the new contract.

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