Neshaminy teachers go on strike

January 9, 2012 3:46:17 PM PST
About 600 teachers at a Neshaminy School District went on strike Monday after working for three years without a contract.

Currently teachers' salaries average $77,000; they range from $42,000 to almost $96,000.

The teachers in the Neshaminy School District in Bucks County haven't received any pay increases since the last contract expired in 2008, but they pay nothing toward their health insurance premiums.

The board wants them to pick up 15 percent of their costs, the union has countered with up to 8 percent.

"We'd like to be in the classrooms teaching," said Charlene Dixon, a fifth-grade teacher who's going on strike for the first strike time in her 28 years teaching. "We are ready and willing to negotiate. ... We want a fair contract."

The union said that it has offered concessions worth millions of dollars and that the board has failed to negotiate in good faith.

The school board countered that meeting even half of the union's demands would require tax increases, spending of reserve funds and reduction of student programs.

Both sides are urging Neshaminy residents to push for a settlement.

The Neshaminy Federation of Teachers requested that community members call the district offices to demand that the school board "negotiate in good faith." The school board, in turn, is asking residents to call the union's offices to persuade them to seek an "affordable" deal.

Some taxpayers who have seen the economy and housing values stumble think the teachers are out of touch.

"Where the economy is, I think they need to be grateful to have a job. Everybody would like to have more, but at some point we have to say when is enough," taxpayer Trish Klein said.

But teacher Jared Katz who was replacing pro-union lawn signs someone trashed argues the teachers are not trying to gouge taxpayers.

"Teachers definitely understand that. I personally work more than one job to help support my family," Katz said.

Residents posting on Facebook pages for the school district and the union expressed frustration with the decision to strike, as well as the board's suspension of all negotiation sessions during the work stoppage.

"This is hard on everyone ... students, parents, teachers," teacher Kim Molnick Ross posted on the union's Facebook page. "The bottom line is, everyone needs to sit down, negotiate and get this settled."


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