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Home > Article Categories > Medical Vocational Articles > Teacher Strikes in Ahead for Pa.?

Teacher Strikes in Ahead for Pa.?

It's contract negotiation time for public school unions and school boards and Pennsylvania, the national leader in teacher strikes, steels itself for what could be ahead in the bargaining period.

Not only does Pennsylvania lead the nation in teacher strikes, but teacher strikes happen more often in Pennsylvania than in all other states combined every year since 2004. In 37 states, teachers are not even permitted to strike. The legislative effort against strikes tends to be a Republican issue. The state is anticipation of next month, when Republicans will control the governorship and both chambers of Legislature and progress on a strike ban might be made.

Governor-elect, Tom Corbett, said during his campaign that he was not opposed to a strike ban, and that he thinks the state should come up with new solutions for avoiding strikes, including expanding the use of binding arbitration.

Despite the high statistics on the state and strikes, the frequency of strikes is actually going down in Pennsylvania. There were eight strikes in Pennsylvania last year, according to the state School Boards Association. Between 1970 and 1992, Pennsylvania saw 850 strikes. In 1992, laws were passed to govern public school collective bargaining.

This law recently came up at Bethel Park school in Pittsburgh. Classes at Bethel Park were recently resumed after a strike that began on October 25. Bethel Park teachers are working without a contract, but the 1992 law requires them to continue working despite this. The Bethel Park strike was attended by 400 teachers and other employees.

Bethel park was one of only three strikes in Pennsylvania so far this academic year. Others were in Allegheny Valley and Moon Area school districts. School boards suffer from the need to control expenses and prevent property tax increases. While Gov. Ed Rendell increased basic education subsidies every year, policy-makers have suggested that next year's state budget might not be able to accommodate ever greater levels of state funding.
So the state is bracing.

?If things would go in the trend of seeing more strikes when people are out of work, people are facing higher medical insurance premiums, I think there would be a growing willingness by the Legislature to consider such legislation,? said Rep. Doug Reichley, R-Lehigh.

But maybe legislation won't be necessary. Tom Templeton, an assistant executive director of the school boards? association, said that school directors typically want to treat their employees fairly, and push for the overarching goal of student achievement. He said that recently, more districts are continuing to bargain after their contracts expire.

Strikes inconvenience parents and students but they are not academically harmful, said Wythe Keever, spokesman for the Pennsylvania State Education Association, the state?s largest teachers? union. Keever said that about 200 contracts for districts, intermediate units and vocational schools are up for renewal each year, and only a small fraction of these negotiations result in strikes.

?We would take any effort to reopen the bargaining law very seriously,? Keever said. ?However, we think Gov.-elect Corbett and the new General Assembly have more pressing issues to deal with at this time.?

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