One Strike Ends, Another Begins

Taxpayers, families with school age children, and students hoping to attend classes in two Allegheny County districts are likely exhibiting different reactions today. In the northeast corner of the County the Allegheny Valley School District just ended its walkout today.

It began on September 16th but the end of the teacher strike does not mean the dispute is over. The impasse now goes to non-binding arbitration under Act 88, the law governing collective bargaining for school employees. Since that law also prohibits the school from hiring people to teach who have not worked at the school for the previous twelve months, it was up to administrators to keep classes going for seniors who hope to graduate on time. "Parents were very grateful. There were phone calls and e-mails from quite a few parents" said one administrator.

Gratitude will likely be in short supply in the south hills Bethel Park School District, however. Teachers in that district announced that they intend to go on strike this coming Tuesday because of unsatisfactory negotiations on a contract that expired at the end of June. Like Allegheny Valley and other districts that have seen public education interrupted by a work stoppage, the teachers’ union there is looking for "a fair and equitable settlement while maintaining the quality of and access to our health care, and to reduce class size to provide a better learning environment for our students".

Allegheny County holds the distinction of being the only county in the state to see a teacher strike thus far this school year according to the PA School Boards Association.

Allegheny Valley Teacher Strike—The Bad and The Ugly

With apologies to the spaghetti western and Clint, there is no good to be found in a teacher strike.

The Ugly is the disruption imposed on parents, students and the education process for the duration of the strike. Making it even uglier is the fact that during these harsh economic times, teacher unions are unwilling to give an inch of relief to taxpayers, many of whom are hard pressed. The union attitude is; too bad. If you want it as cushy as we have it go to work for government and join a public sector union, especially one where the law requires the customers to show up-at least when the teachers deign to be at work-and the taxpayers must pay whatever the union demands to provide the service.

It gets uglier when one considers that the teachers will lose no pay for missing work. Law requires 180 days of school and teachers will get paid for all 180. It might necessitate keeping kids in class until late June, but what the heck, what do unions care about a little inconvenience for students and their parents?

All this is done to show the school board and the community who holds the power in these negotiations. And this is one of the main reasons Pennsylvania spends so much on education and gets such mediocre results.

The Bad? While classes are cancelled and no learning is taking place-the reason we have and pay through the nose for schools-extracurricular activities will continue. This will include football games. Presumably, faculty members who coach the team or instruct band members are allowed to cross the picket lines. What does this tell us about the priorities of the community and the teachers? Not much that is good-that’s for sure.