Parents, teachers on opposing sides in Neshaminy strike

June 4, 2012 8:30:02 PM PDT
Teachers are on strike for the second time this year in the Neshaminy School District in Bucks County. They hit the picket lines early Monday morning.

The union notified the district of the walkout last week after talks with the school board broke down. Teachers have been working without a contract for nearly four years.

Marion Reed from the Neshaminy Federation of Teachers tells us, "As we've said so many times, roll up your sleeves and do the hard work that is required to negotiate and reach a fair contract that's fair to both the citizens and the teachers in Neshaminy."

The teachers first went on strike in January. The two sides haven't met since then, but that strike led to state-mandated non-binding arbitration.

The arbitrator came back with a proposal that the teachers accepted, but the school board rejected, saying they just don't have the $20 million it would cost.

Parents and students set up across the street from the teachers' picket line Monday to voice their support for the board.

They say the teachers are among the highest paid in the state, despite the district's falling PSSA scores. And combined with the area's tough economy, the teachers' demands are unrealistic.

Dawn Lynch of Levittown says, "Enough is enough. If the money's not there, the money's not there. We need these teachers to see our side of the economics in this whole thing."

The teachers counter by saying they've compromised by cutting their demands and offering givebacks on issues including wages, healthcare, back pay and retirement benefits, while the board has added more demands they call "punitive."

State law requires teachers to be in the classroom for 180 days by June 30th. If this strike lasts ten days, the school year would continue through June 29th - something these students don't want to see.

"It's just not fair that the students have to stay until, like, June 29th," said fifth grader Kayla Davidson. "So I just want to say to the teachers, it's just not fair for the kids."

It seems very likely that the strike will go on until there is a legal injunction imposed, forcing the teachers back into the classroom. But that is all part of the strategy.

The teachers are hoping that a judge will step in and force both sides to continue to negotiate until they reach some sort of compromise. That is why they decided to strike now as opposed to waiting until the start of the next school year.