Friday, June 6, 2008

Bill Targets Teacher Strikes

When it comes to teacher strikes in Pennsylvania, politicians are striking back.

Government officials are hoping the latest attempt to stop walkouts throughout the state will gain more clout than its predecessors.

Freshman State Rep. Todd Rock, R-Franklin, is scheduled to unveil the Strike-Free Education Act House Bill 1369 Tuesday morning in Harrisburg.

The bill, with the support of local state Rep. Dave Steil, R-31, would make strikes and lockouts illegal. Board members and union officials would be required to start talking the September before the contract expires, officials said.
In the event of an impasse, the legislation mandates mediation, fact-finding, nonbinding arbitration, negotiation sessions and town hall meetings where all proposals must be made public, legislators said.
Teachers would be penalized two days of pay for every day they strike illegally.
If the contract expires and they still don't have a deal, the teachers' salary increases won't be retroactive, like many are now, and both sides would have to negotiate four times a month and meet with the public every several weeks until they reach an agreement, officials said.

Although there's no deadline, Rock and his supporters believe school boards and unions will be encouraged to settle by public pressure.
�It takes years to repair the damage in a community when there's a strike," said Rock, a former non-union public school teacher.

A Lower Makefield resident and Pennsbury parent, Simon Campbell knows how a walkout can divide a district. Pennsbury teachers struck for 21 days in the fall of 2005.

That's why Campbell, president of StopTeacherStrikes Inc., helped craft ideas for Rock's bill. "The right of a child to receive a strike-free education supersedes teachers' right to strike," said Campbell, who is posting the names and salaries of Bucks County teachers on his Web site