Monday, April 26, 2010

War(rior) Paint

The striking teachers in the North Penn School District could soon have company if their neighbors to the south, the teachers of the Methacton Education Association (MEA) serving Methacton School District, go through with their intention to walk off the job if negotiations on a new contract break down.

In early March, MEA notified Methacton School District that they were implementing the 'work to rule' provision of their contract, which is more a display of solidarity and a small scaleback in their participation of noncontractual obligations than a threat, but still, it moves MEA one step closer to going on strike.

 With only 48 hours' notice to the school district, MEA's leadership could choose to strike, since members of the teachers' association recently voted to permit their leadership to initiate a work stoppage at will.

Since negotiations have been ongoing since 2008 and the teachers have been without a contract since June  2009, I have to wonder at what point MEA, frustrated with the lack of progress, will flex their muscle and go out on strike, using whatever leverage they have - imminent June graduation comes to mind as one potential chip - to move negotiations forward.

The school district's website indicates that negotiations are still ongoing and progress is being made, and the next negotiating session is scheduled for May 3.

Unfortunately for MEA, the timing could not be worse to be in the midst of contract negotiations.

The Methacton School Board finance committee recently reviewed a list of 27 proposed budget cuts totaling $1,102,359 from the fiscal 2010 preliminary budget. The $1.1 million in cuts will maintain the budget’s millage increase at 1.55 mills to 25.79 mills, a 6.4 percent real estate tax increase. The millage increase will boost the average homeowner’s tax bill by $272.71 to $4,537.54 based on an average assessment of $175,942.

That's if their labor costs stay the same, which they certainly won't (or else any strike will be endless). And that's if they actually make all those budget cuts - which some people are already screaming about, such as proposed elimination of the T1 program or closing the swimming pool at the high school - or substitute any of those items on the list that are spared with something else of equal savings.

The proposed fiscal 2010 cuts come on the heels of last year's budget, in which measures other than spending reductions were taken in order to keep the budget trim. Other revenue sources, including a transfer of  $1.1 million from the capital reserve fund, reduced the original proposed 6.7% tax increase to 3.92%. The small percentage of our school budget that comes from state and federal subsidies will surely be even smaller going forward as those sources are already strained and experiencing shortfalls in funding to provide their critical services.
Obviously, we can't transfer money from the reserve fund every year. And MEA's members are likely to be unwilling to settle for the kinds of reduced or eliminated pay raises and benefit contributions that those of us still fortunate enough to be working full time have had to
 accept in a poor labor market.

So far, the war paint is on, but no one has raised a tomahawk just yet. At some point, however, the rubber will have to meet the road, and it may not be pretty when it does.


Anonymous said...

It seams to me that each and every time I hear tell of another teachers strike we hear they want to keep everything they have and give nothing back...even more accountability for students being taught. Now being in the private sector I have to continue to produce or I find myself out of work and that was true when I was a union Carpenter as well. If you don't do the job you don't keep the job. The economy of today clearly shows that if you want to remain in the seat you have then you have to give back a little in order to make way for a change and hope...after all isn't that what was pushed by the unions and now that the spread it around deal is being leveled at them it clearly seems to be an issue...Good enough for the rest of us then I feel that is should be good enough for them. Start paying for the health care out of pocket and contributing to the cost like everyone else and work to move forward and make it a sustainable fix not just another band-aid that will end up slipping off in another few years. Just my 2 cents...before they take most of it away to pay for somebody's health care...

Dave M said...

If your teachers are like ours in N Penn then your in for a long drawn out protracted negotiation and strike. It doesn't seem to matter to the teachers what the state of the economy is or how many others are unemployed. They are totally out of touch with reality. It seems like the strategy is to ask for the world so as to end up with Manhattan. My opinion, they should fire all the teachers and hire new ones. Just one mans opinion you understand

Anonymous said...

Well if our school board had not felt it necessary to build a school we don't need maybe we would not now have to be trying to decide what things to cut out of the school district budget. The new school is half the tax increase as I see it. Something's got to give and it can't be to raise taxes. School board needs to learn how to tighten their belts and so do the teachers. And yes I have kids in the district but I think you can cut the budgte and still give them a great education.

Anonymous said...


the MSD has been crying poor forever. Because of the continuous delaying negotiating tactics over MANY years, it is hard to lay blame for the current protracted negotiations on the economy: even though that influences money.

The MSD won't be happy until the MEA members are the lowest paid in the what a goal.

and don't say thanks to the teachers for the POSITIVE things that happen. no, that is not necessary.

oh, and by the way, CHILDREN are not widgets subject to quality control. Maybe "anonymous" could Please be specific in regard to the comment:

"Now being in the private sector I have to continue to produce or I find myself out of work and that was true when I was a union Carpenter as well. If you don't do the job you don't keep the job."


The Professor said...

I always wondered why the union didn't publish the figures of what the administrators make at the School District.

I think the tax payers would be absolutely astonished at what these coffee jockeys make!

The Union needs to fight dirtier if they want to come out ahead in these fights!

By the way, Nice signs Janice.