Teachers across Allegheny County lack contracts
Teachers in seven school districts across Allegheny County are working without contracts and while some districts say negotiations have been amicable and are close to producing a deal, others report little progress and say they moving closer to a strike.
Teachers in Bethel Park, Duquesne, East Allegheny, Hampton, Pine-Richland, Shaler and South Allegheny are working under the terms of expired contracts, with salary and benefits among the chief issues, union leaders said.
Pennsylvania State Education Association spokesman Butch Santicola, whose group represents all of the bargaining units except Bethel Park, said decreased money to school districts and a slow economy are contributing to the number of bargaining units without contracts. All of the districts are in negotiations, he said.
“Prior to the gubernatorial election and the economic downturn this would be a lot,” Santicola said. “In the recent past, no.”
Negotiations in Shaler Area appear to be among the most contentious. Members of the teachers union this week authorized their leaders to call a strike. The union would have to give the district 48-hours' notice of a walkout.
Shaler teachers have been without a contract since Aug. 15, 2011. Union and district officials have been meeting since January 2011.
Melissa Ravas, president of the 380-member teachers union, criticized school board President Jim Giel in a new release this week, saying he and the board have “disrespected” the teachers.
“We remain willing to do our part, but the board is not willing to do its part. Jim Giel wants the teachers to do all the heavy lifting so that he can stall the bargain process and attempt to make us look bad,” Ravas said.
Giel said he's only one of nine board members.
“Seventy percent of the taxpayers in the district don't have kids in school. I have a lot of senior citizens that don't want to lose their homes. That fear is always there,” he said.
The Bethel Park teachers union went on strike for six weeks in fall 2010 and is still without a contract.
“We continue to meet with the state-appointed mediator, and we're trying to solve problems with the district,” said Walt Michalski, spokesman for the American Federation of Teachers of Pennsylvania, which represents Bethel Park teachers. “This year, we're still committed to resolving this at the table.”
Michalski said sticking points are class sizes, prep time, salary and health care, and teaching additional classes.
Michalski put some blame on Gov. Tom Corbett's budget, which he said cut money for education.
Tim Eller, a spokesman for the state Department of Education, disputed that money has been cut.
In the 2010-11 state budget, which was Gov. Ed Rendell's final budget, support of public schools totaled $8.56 billion. Under Corbett, support for public schools increased to $9.09 billion in 2011-12 and to $9.48 billion for 2012-13, Eller said.
Other districts expressed optimism that they could reach a deal without threatening a strike.
“We're getting close. We had a meeting Monday and another one is scheduled next week,” said Kim Piekut, president of the South Allegheny Education Association, whose contract expired in June. “I'm cautiously optimistic. It's been going fairly well. The teachers realize the economic crisis we're all in.”
In East Allegheny School District, 131 teachers have been without a contract since June. The school board has twice rejected a state-appointed fact finder's contract recommendation.
Despite that, union President Lou Gerbi said teachers have not taken a strike authorization vote and are continuing to work under the terms of the old deal.
“We're both working through some things. Salary and benefits of course are issues,” Gerbi said.
Hampton teachers have been without a contract since June. Hampton school board President David Gurwin said negotiators met earlier this week and another session is scheduled next month.
“I'm optimistic we're going to reach a deal,” Gurwin said. “I think we all recognize we're in a different economic environment. The rules are changed a bit with the state law that limits millage increases. Coupled with increased health care expenses, it's almost a perfect storm.”
Pine-Richland teachers' contract expired at the end of June. Negotiations are ongoing, but the sides have decided not to discuss the issues publicly, according to Dr. Jeffrey Banyas, school board vice president.
“The discussions have been amicable,” he said. “(Decreased funding) is something that gets factored into budget decisions. Obviously, the budget has an impact on negotiations. We're trying to deal with the reality we're dealt with.”
Duquesne teachers this fall authorized their leaders to call a strike, Santicola said, but they have not walked off the job. Susan Sherman, president of the Duquesne teachers union, said the union wants to work with the state's appointed recovery officer, Paul Long, who is tasked with devising a financial recovery plan for the cash-strapped district.
“We have no intentions of walking off the job. We're waiting out the process to see what Dr. Long has in store,” Sherman said. “Our priority is the children.”
Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7886 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- U.S. Steel, Penguins, government leaders call press conference at Consol
- Clues to Chief Justice John Roberts’ thinking on new ObamaCare case
- Stores creating Thanksgiving dine-and-dash dilemma
- Pirates trade Davis to A’s for international signing bonus money
- NFL parity makes playoff chase a multi-team muddle
- CT scans can find smokers’ lung cancer early
- Iraqi family, torn apart for opposing Saddam, reunites in Pittsburgh
- Horse racing industry banks on Wolf
- Shooting victims live with bullets to survive, thrive
- Starkey: No explaining Steelers, AFC North
- For Steelers, a fight to finish for playoff berth