Every few years, a new contract is negotiated between the District and its teacher’s professional association, the Unionville-Chadds Ford Education Association. This is one of those years. The process itself is simple, but getting to a signed agreement is a journey.
Collective bargaining is a negotiating process whereby two parties with different objectives arrive at a single agreement. This is done through a back-and-forth process of counter-proposals and concessions. In school districts it often takes several months to conclude a negotiation. And it is not unusual for negotiations to last more than a year or to extend beyond the end date of the existing contract.
Our negotiation is between the UCFEA and the Board. UCFEA is a local affiliate of the PSEA, which is itself a state affiliate of the NEA, the nation’s largest labor union. As a professional association / union, the UCFEA advocates for its members and the profession. For this contract the UCFEA is using a professional negotiator from outside the district.
The Board of UCFSD negotiates on behalf of the District, and School Directors Mr. DuPuis, Mr. Lindner, and Mr. Knauss are the Board’s negotiators. The negotiating team updates the full board in Executive Session at least monthly.
The contract determines teacher pay scales, benefits, working hours, educational reimbursement, and a variety of work rules and protections. (I have previously written about how teacher pay works here , here, and here. If you are new this subject that is worthwhile background.)
In order for a contract to go into effect, it must be voted on and passed by the Board. Prior to that vote, I believe it is also voted on by PSEA membership. (If you know otherwise, please provide a correction in the comments and I will update the post.)
The negotiating teams met for the first time in late December 2014. The UCFEA negotiator provided an initial proposal in January 2015, and there have been several counter proposals by each party as part of good faith negotiations.
When negotiations began, it was mutually agreed that either party could ‘go public’ at any time, by giving three days notice to the other party. In ‘going public’, both parties would be permitted to disclose the most recent contract offer of each party, and to make other public statements about the state of the negotiations.
The Board notified UCFEA earlier this week of its intent to ‘go public’. Today, a press conference was held with Mr. Lindner speaking on behalf of the Board. Local press covered the event, and news stories should be published Friday and Saturday. (Check back here for links, which will be added as I find them.) The same presentation will be given again to the public at the School Board meeting on March 16, and can be accessed here in the Board Docs folder for March 16.
As stated in the presentation, the Board seeks a contract that balances three objectives:
- Provides competitive compensation for our excellent teachers
- Stays within the tax limits established by Pennsylvania law (Act 1) including limited qualifying exceptions
- Sustains current class size limits and school programs
On the financial dimensions of the agreement, there is a significant gap between the UCFEA and Board proposals. (There are also significant differences on non-financial contract terms.) Over the three year contract period, UCFEA’s proposal would (absent other actions by the Board) push UCFSD well above the Act 1 limits.
Were the UCFEA’s proposal accepted in its current form, the district would need to undertake some or all of the following steps in response:
- Reduce the size of the teaching force and increase class sizes
- Cut programs (in order to cut professional staff)
- Put a referendum to the voters to increase taxes beyond Act 1 limits
I do not believe that taking these drastic steps would be in the best interest of our students and community.
What happens next?
It is back to the negotiating table. I am confident that the Board will continue to negotiate in good faith to reach an agreement. And that agreement needs to result in a contract that enables us to deliver a great educational program to our students, while fairly compensating our teachers, and staying within the limits of Act 1.
Press coverage here: