Teachers strike in Downingtown

No classes today
January 29, 2008 9:12:53 PM PST
Students in Downingtown started an unscheduled vacation Tuesday, as a result of a nearly $2 million disagreement between the teachers union and the school district.

Parents got the call Monday afternoon. Students could be home anywhere from twelve to twenty three days.

Picketers hit the streets about noon time on Tuesday as parents scrambled.

Some dropped their kids at special YMCA daycare centers and others dined at a local Chic-fil-a and made plans for the afternoon.

This strike is over pay.

Currently teachers make between 43,000 and 82,000.

The district has offered a four year deal, which adds up to an 18 percent hike.

The union says that is not enough.

The union rejected a request to stay in the classrooms during non-binding arbitration, despite the fact if there is no settlement and the strike goes its full legal limit, non-binding arbitration will be mandatory.

"What's accomplished by the strike is that the district has been placed on notice that the teachers are exceptionally unhappy about the offer that has been made to them. They are exceptionally unhappy about the way they've been treated," Paul Gottlieb, a union representative, said.

The board says the message it is getting from tax payers is what it has offered is fair.

"Most of our community members are not seeing those kinds of raises and that type of health benefit contributions," Alice Johnson, a negotiator board member, said.

"It is going to be a long week when you stay at home with small kids," said Debbie MacCausland.

MacCausland admits as a stay at home mom she is one of the lucky ones. There are thousands of families that are now scrambling to find child care. The local YMCAs will offer care at the two high schools, but they can only accommodate three hundred children. There are five thousand kindergarten through fifth grade students.

Just before 2:00 Monday morning talks between the union and the school district broke off. The two sides are close to settling on benefits, but could not close a four-tenths of a percent difference over salaries.

The board says they can't pay more because of rising healthcare costs and increasing enrollment, but the union says Downingtown is one of the richest districts in Chester County and their salaries are the fourth lowest.

You can find more information about the strike on the Downingtown School District website.