Saucon Valley teachers on strike

HELLERTOWN - September 15, 2008 - The educators hit the picket line Monday morning, demanding more money and better benefits.

Contract talks between the school board and the teacher's union broke down Sunday, with both sides still very far apart on key issues.

The union says the district's offer of a 4.7% annual salary increase, with a sharp rise in shared payment of health care costs, is simply inadequate.

"It would be adequate if they gave us those actual dollars, but they also want to strip all of our benefits out," said Vivian Demko, President of the Education Association.

The union can strike up to three and a half weeks before going into arbitration. But the union could strike again if arbitration fails.

Saucon Valley Superintendent Dr. Sandra Fellin says the current offer is generous, and she says a tax increase to pay for a better salary package for teachers would "go over like a lead balloon."

"Eighty-five percent of our budget is based on taxpayer income," Dr. Fellin said. "That's what the board is looking at and is very sensitive about."

Action News spoke with several parents, some of whom back the union. Many others don't, saying Saucon Valley teachers make more than $60,000 on average and they're already among the best paid in the region.

Lanita Lum, a district parent, even took it upon herself to stage a counter-protest.

"Last time they went on strike, I think they still got a very gracious contract," Lum said. "This time, they're asking for more again. Enough is enough!"

That previous walkout occurred three years ago and lasted on day. This strike is poised to last a lot longer, as no new contract talks have been scheduled.

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