Without a raise since ’11, Chester Upland teachers reject latest contract offer

    Teachers at Science and Discovery High School at Showalter in Chester

    Teachers at Science and Discovery High School at Showalter in Chester

    Years-long gridlock between teachers and management at one of Pennsylvania’s most financially challenged school districts continues.

    This week, teachers at Chester Upland School District in Delaware County rejected a proposed contract. Union president Michele Paulick said while members want a deal, they are willing to hold out for the right one.

    “The members haven’t seen a change in their salary since 2011. So, you imagine our frustration,” she said. “But it wasn’t a tentative agreement our membership could live with.”

    One problem with the agreement is proposed pay raises were less than newly required contributions to employees health plans, according to Paulick, who declined to share the tentative agreement. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported the proposed contract called for employees to make contributions as high as $1,300 a year to their health plans, while most would teachers would have received annual raises of $2,100. The average pay, according to that report, is $75,000.

    In members’ eyes, “the salary increase that they’ve offered doesn’t truly offset the amount we’re going ot have to pay in health care,” said Paulick.

    The old contract between the district and the Chester Upland Education Association expired in 2013.

    Since then, both sides been trying to find a workable solution amid the school district’s very public money problems.

    Due to chronic low test scores and financial shortfalls, Chester Upland had has some form of state oversight or outright control for more than 20 years. Instead of a school board, the district has a state-appointed leader, called a receiver.

    In fall 2015, teachers went to work even though school officials told them it didn’t have the funds to issue paychecks, due to Pennsylvania’s long-overdue state budget. In the end, the state, which contributes a greater portion of funding to Chester Upland and other districts where property taxes are insufficient, bailed the district out.

    After protests by teachers last summer, contract negotiations resumed in the fall, leading to the tentative agreement rejected this week.

    “We are truly disappointed by the results of this vote,” said Peter R. Barsz, Chester Upland’s interim receiver, in an emailed statement. “It is our belief that hours of productive talks produced a proposed agreement that was fair to all parties.”

    Paulick said the union has distributed surveys to its two hundred plus members, covering what they would accept in a future agreement. She said representatives of the two sides spoke this week. In a statement, the district said no further talks are scheduled.

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