Another Strike Will Make Moon Blue

After enduring a work stoppage that lasted almost all of November, 2010, parents and taxpayers in the Moon Area School District are in a very gray area today: teachers are back on the job, and the board and the union went to arbitration over contractual matters, but nothing is settled. Teachers accepted the arbitrator’s findings but the board did not, noting in a press release that the award would lead to a 2.85 mill increase over the life of the contract.

An official of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, who identified himself as a resident of the district in a newspaper report, said "there may be another strike. At this time there are no plans for one, but it’s a possibility…I do not know what will happen".

Allegheny County is enjoying "special" status this school year as it is the only county in the Commonwealth to endure a teacher strike, with three thus far (Allegheny Valley, Bethel Park, Moon affecting close to 10k students in total). Another walkout in Moon would be the fourth. As we have noted before Pennsylvania is one of a small minority of states that permit walkouts and, of that small group, it usually accounts for the majority of strikes. In a Brief we wrote at the conclusion of the 2009-10 school year we noted "127 districts are negotiating contracts, and it likely won’t be too long before word comes that one or more of those districts will experience a walkout". Little did we know that the activity would be concentrated in one county.

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.