Lamenting the inability of the Bethel Park School District to get a contract with teachers for the last two and half years, the superintendent says she has been silent until now because she is in a " peculiar position of advising the Board and leading the staff."
Hold the phone. Does the Board not hire superintendents to manage the schools on behalf of the residents and taxpayers of the district? That being the case, the superintendent is honor bound to work for the board and taxpayers. Staff members do not pay her salary, they answer to her as the board’s appointed agent in charge.
Clearly, she has the obligation to advise the board on what it should do vis-à-vis the teachers’ contract but her obligation has to be first and foremost to the board. She can be an advocate for programs that improve education or management procedures that improve cost effectiveness. At the same time, she is not, and should never consider herself, to be a spokesperson for the union’s interests. The union has enough power on its side in the bargaining process including the right to strike and the state’s idiotic no layoffs for financial reasons provisions.
If the talks are at an impasse, and compensation costs cannot be lowered under the terms of the old contract, the superintendent should offer suggestions about programs to cut-one of two criteria the state permits for reducing staff. Alternatively, if teachers will not agree to slight increases in class size to save their jobs, then the onus must be on their union for staff that lose their jobs because of intransigence.
The Bethel Park board should question whether the superintendent understands her role.
After enduring a six week strike last year, the Bethel Park schools are once again facing a possible teacher walkout. Why? Because teachers want more money and continued control over work rules. If Pennsylvania would pass a law containing the provisions of Wisconsin’s Act 10 passed earlier this year, Bethel Park teachers would not be talking walk out again. Indeed, under the Wisconsin statute, not only would they be forbidden from striking, they would not be allowed to bargain for anything other than base wages. Benefits, work rules, etc., would be left to management to decide upon.
Moreover, the school district would not be permitted to withhold union dues from employees and remit them to the union bosses. And finally, the union would have to hold a recertification vote every year with a requirement that 51 percent of all bargaining units members vote in the affirmative for the union to continue as the representative of the employees.
Too bad Pennsylvania is so late to the teacher strike elimination derby. Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio have all eliminated the dreadful practice. Pennsylvania stands with Vermont as the only state in the Northeast as allowing strikes. None of its neighboring states allow strikes. So why is it that Pennsylvania’s legislators cannot get this albatross off the backs of children and taxpayers?
Bethel Park would certainly benefit from a dose of Wisconsin treatment of union abuse of taxpayers and the public.
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.