The Deeper Implications of the Ambridge Teacher Strike

Summary:  Yet another Pennsylvania school district is in the midst of a teacher strike with the walkout leaving parents and students to suffer the consequences. It is past time for the state to eliminate the right of teachers to strike to protect the interests of students and taxpayers.


In a news story that occurs all too frequently in Pennsylvania, another teacher strike has just joined the state’s nation leading count of teacher work stoppages. On December 13th, Ambridge teachers went out on strike and can remain out until January 4th


What will happen as a result of the strike?  Nothing bad for the teachers—that is a certainty. They will not lose a day’s pay. The school year will be completed by adding days in June to get to the mandated 180 days of instruction.  The teachers will get paid for those tacked on days.  This is unlike New York where teachers lose two days’ pay for every day out on strike insuring that there is a price to be paid for walking off the job.  Nor will Ambridge teachers lose any health benefits, pension benefits, sick leave days or other non- monetary benefits.  In short, the strike is, in effect, giving the Ambridge teachers a longer holiday break.


While the teachers face no real consequences for their walkout, students and their parents and potentially taxpayers will suffer negative effects. In student homes where both parents work, arrangements for childcare will have to be made, possibly at considerable expense.  And next June, family plans for travel that could be severely disrupted with possible monetary losses, attendance at summer camp or other long planned activities for some kids having to be scuttled,  and starting summer jobs for many older students put on hold.  And the interruption of classes, test taking and other academic activities could be detrimental to students as well. Thus, much of the negative effects of the strike will be borne by students and their parents.


The following key statistics describe the Ambridge School District. Located in southeast Beaver County, the District’s enrollment was 3,062 in the 2005-06 school year.  A decade later (2015-16) it has fallen to 2,452—a decline of seventeen percent.  Financial data from the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) for the 2014-15 school year, (the most recent available) put Ambridge’s total expenditure per average daily membership (ADM) at $15,136.  Ambridge per pupil spending is higher than neighboring Beaver County districts, Central Valley ($13,568), Freedom Area ($13,925) and even Butler County neighbor Seneca Valley ($15,013).  The instructional expenditures per student for Ambridge were $8,433, which places them lower than Seneca Valley ($8,665) but higher than Freedom Area ($8,223) and Central Valley ($7,755).


Academically, the Ambridge District ranked 378th of 585 districts and charter schools in the state—based on rankings of test scores released by the PDE (last updated in September 2016).  Seneca Valley is ranked 45th, Central Valley comes in at 194th, while Freedom Area places 319th.  Thus, despite spending more per pupil than other districts, Ambridge students are not as well prepared academically as students in neighboring districts.


Of the 500 school districts in 2014-15, Ambridge’s State Tax Equalization Board (STEB) market value ranks as the 236th highest and its equalized millage rate is 88th highest making it a relatively high tax district. If the school board accedes to teacher demands, and goes beyond the fact finder’s suggested fair settlement compensation increases, in order to prevent some of the hardship and costs the strike inflicts on the students and parents, taxpayers will feel the effects of the strike in higher tax bills.


To be sure, when it comes to strikes the State’s policies are very inconsistent.  On the one hand truancy law requires students to attend school and there are legal consequences (although seldom enforced) for students who are not in school. Yet the state allows teachers to refuse to show up for work for a couple of weeks with no negative consequences.


The Ambridge teachers strike is a reminder of just how far out of step Pennsylvania’s labor laws are. Only a handful of states allow teacher strikes, and only two or three actually ever see a significant number of strikes.  Sadly, teacher strikes, transit worker strikes, union dues collection by employers, stringent prevailing wage laws, the most out of step union favoring binding arbitration laws and the absence of a right to work law in Pennsylvania are an enormous drag on the economy.


Teacher strikes are clearly a failure of Pennsylvania’s government to act in the best interests of students and taxpayers while favoring a powerful special interest.  That is a serious flaw that ought to be repaired for the Commonwealth’s sake—and soon.

Teacher Strikes and TSA Pat Downs

If a person desires to board a plane in many airports in the U.S., that person must submit to an extraordinarily intrusive search of his body-either by radiation screening or pat down by TSA personnel.

If a person lives in Pennsylvania and has school age children, that person must be prepared to have those children staying home from school while teachers go on strike. This despite the fact that Pennsylvania, like other states, has a compulsory attendance law. So the law really means students must show up for class as long as teachers choose to be there to hold classes. Taxpayers also do not have the option to go on strike and withhold their tax payments.

The way to avoid intrusive searches is not to fly. The way to avoid having students tossed out of class due to the arbitrary and malicious walkouts by teachers is to move to one of the 45 states where strikes are illegal or simply do not happen for whatever reason.

According to the Fourth Amendment, the right of the people to be secure in their persons against unreasonable searches shall not be violated. Of course, to TSA it is perfectly reasonable to molest people in the name of airplane security and safety. That is what happens when the government is unwilling to profile those who are from groups known to be involved in terrorism. We don’t do that because it is politically incorrect and would have the ACLU filing suits in a heartbeat claiming racial discrimination.

So, TSA has to molest elderly grandmothers and toddlers in a completely unreasonable way to ensure safety for no other reason that everyone is a suspect even though there is not a scintilla of evidence that these people have ever been nor or are they likely to ever be terrorists. Is this how Americans are desensitized to the loss of freedom and dignity? And this is done by a government that has failed completely at protecting the nation’s southern border allowing who knows who to enter to country with who knows what intentions.

Meanwhile, teacher strikes create enormous inconvenience, although they are not necessarily personally humiliating for the thousands of victims of such strike. They are an assault on the community as they force working parents to find day care and create education hardships for students. They frequently produce compensation packages that are far superior to what could be achieved without the strikes or threat of strikes. And that translates into higher property taxes and more state subsidy.

All this comes about because government has chosen to allow employees of the school system to withdraw their labor and inflict hardship on the public they serve. How utterly despicable. Children are forced to attend school under threat of legal action against their parents while those hired to teach are empowered by the same government to strike for as long as five weeks as we currently see in Bethel Park.

The TSA pat downs and teacher strikes both reflect the brutish power of government to allow or require abuse of its citizens by government employees because of its failure to do the obvious right thing instead caving to demands of certain groups as opposed to concerning itself with the rights and welfare of the general public. The question is. Why does the public continue to put up with such flagrant government sponsored mistreatment?