With negotiations at a standstill, teachers formed picket lines Monday morning.Over 650 members of the Neshaminy Federation of Teachers have worked without a contract for nearly four years, and now they say enough is enough.
"We have yet to have any contact with the board that suggests they're willing or able to do any further negotiations," said Louise Boyd, NFT President.The strike is on after a last-minute attempt to avoid a walk-out failed yesterday. It's unclear when any additional talks will be scheduled. "We feel like we've done everything we can do," said NFT Vice-President Anne Schmidt. "We feel like the board has put us in this position. They're pretty much 'take it or leave it' on every issue, and we don't see that as a way to help our community or help our students." Today's picketing looked a lot like the demonstration at the beginning of the school year when teachers complained then of working for almost four years without a contract. "We want to be in our classrooms teaching but sadly a strike is the only way we have left to persuade the board to reach a fair settlement," said Louise Boyd, the NFT Union President.
The school board strongly disagrees.
"The key to settling this impasse is not to deny our children their education. The answer is in understanding the economic times we live in," said Ritchie Webb, School Board President.While teachers haven't had a pay raise since 2008, they are still receiving free health care. The district wants teachers to pay 15% of the cost. The union is offering 8%. "I know it's benefits and salary," said Bill Banks. "We're all paying, and I think everyone needs to put in their fair share." "I know they need to hold the line on things to a sense, but I also think they're taking a really hard line, making it seem like the teachers are the bad guy in this whole thing," said Patty Snider, who is a parent in the district. It's no secret how disruptive a strike will be for parents who have been hustling to make alternative child care arrangements. "The only people getting hurt are the children," said Joe Trinian. "My daughter just started kindergarten at Neshaminy, and we're thinking about putting her in private school." "We still have to work, but now we have to worry about her and what she's going to be doing during the day and making sure she's taken care of," said Amanda Ladue. Amanda and Mark Ladue are making arrangements for someone to keep an eye on their 12-year-old, Mikaylah. "Thank God she's old enough to take care of herself, but if we had to miss a day of work that would hurt us," said Mark Ladue. 8-year-old Jordan Banks is one of many children staying home because of the impending teacher strike.
His dad says he's not looking forward to the added strain this brings on working parents.
"There's a lot of people with both parents working and its going to be difficult for them. It's going to put a strain on them and it's a shame," said Banks' father.
All but Schweitzer and Miller Elementary schools will offer day care services for a fee during the strike which could last as long as 3 weeks.
RELATED: Neshaminy School District website