10/10/07

Kids, parents to pay for teachers strike

Pupils in the Reynolds (PA) School District didn't go to school Tuesday, didn't go again today and aren't sure when classes will resume. The district was hit by a teachers' strike as about 100 members of the Reynolds Education Association walked off the job Tuesday morning after contract negotiations failed to reach a new agreement.

The teachers' old contract expired in June 2006 and they worked all of last year and for the first six weeks of this school year under an extension of their old agreement. Pennsylvania puts strict limits on how long teachers can remain on strike.

School districts are required to provide instruction for 180 days during the school year, and teachers can actually call two strikes during that time period. State law mandates that the first strike must end in time for the district to complete its 180 days by June 15, which means Reynolds teachers could be on the picket line for about three weeks, based upon the Pennsylvania Department of Education's determining what the district's revised school calendar will be.

Scheduled days off, including holiday time, could be shortened by a strike.

A second strike could be called if issues remain unresolved, but that would be of even shorter duration as the law requires that the 180 days be covered by June 30 in the event of a second strike.

Negotiators for the teachers and school board met for five hours Monday night into Tuesday morning, and, although some agreements were reached on secondary issues, the two sides remain apart on wages and insurance issues, including having teachers pick up part of their health-care costs for the first time.

The district has said it is offering wage increases averaging 3 percent per year over a five-year contract.

The district said the teacher salary proposal would give some teachers raises as high as 10 percent or 11 percent, which would include salary step increases for those not yet at their maximum pay levels.

However, Marcus Schlegel, a Pennsylvania State Education Association representative assisting the Reynolds teachers, said the two wage proposals are only $40,000 apart over the entire five-year contract.

Current salaries range from a low of $36,361 (with 20 teachers at that level) to a high of $57,161 (with 33 teacher at that level), according to the REA salary proposal listed on the school district's Web site.

Teachers will be on the picket lines from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., mirroring school hours, Schlegel said. No new bargaining sessions had been scheduled as of late Tuesday, he said.

The district has canceled some activities, such as junior varsity and junior high football, but other programs, such as varsity football, volleyball, cross country, marching band and homecoming are still on the schedule.

(vindy.com)

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