Here is Why We Should Ban Teacher Strikes in PA

Member Group : Allegheny Institute

What a deal.

When Pennsylvania teachers go on strike — that is, refuse to work because they disagree with the terms of their employment — they do not lose a day’s pay; it’s made up with days tacked on at the end of the year to meet the state’s 180-day minimum requirement.

Neither do they lose any health benefits. Pension benefits? Left intact. Sick days. Not affected.

Don’t try this in the real world, unionized or not.

But while the Keystone State’s public school teachers face no real consequences for their walkout, students and their parents — and potentially taxpayers — will suffer negative effects, according to Jake Haulk and Frank Gamrat, scholars at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy.

West Shore School District teachers reject contract proposal, authorize strike if needed
West Shore School District teachers reject contract proposal, authorize strike if needed
The union authorized its bargaining team to call a strike if needed.

From the unexpected need for child care, to scuttled vacation and/or summer camp plans, to delayed starts to summer jobs, parents and their children pay a price, sometimes steep, the two researchers write in a new Allegheny Institute white paper.

What brings this all back to mind is the latest in a long line of public school teacher strikes in Pennsylvania.

Ambridge teachers walked off the job on Dec. 13. Under state law, they can remain off the job until Jan. 4.

Pay and health benefits are the sticking points for teachers who have worked without a contract for the last year and a half.

Teachers reportedly have agreed to double their contribution for their health insurance, from a laughable $25 monthly to a not-much-less amusing $50 monthly, no matter if it is individual or family coverage, and then not until the 2019-20 school year.

Pa. teachers plan to resume strike; worked without contract since 2013
The union says the walkout is a continuation of a strike the teachers staged between Sept. 8 and Sept. 28.

The monthly cost to the district is $593 and $1,619, respectively.

Ambridge’s enrollment has declined 17 percent over the last decade. Spending per pupil is comparatively higher than other Beaver County districts.

Its tax millage rate is the highest in the county, says Ira Weiss, the district’s solicitor.

Yet, Ambridge is no academic Mecca. Its schools rank 378th out of the commonwealth’s 585 public and charter schools. "Ambridge students are not as well prepared academically as students in neighboring districts," Haulk and Gamrat say.

"The Ambridge teachers strike is a reminder of just how far out of step Pennsylvania labor laws are," the Allegheny Institute researchers remind. After all, only a handful of states allow teacher strikes and only two or three actually ever see strikes.

"Sadly, teacher strikes, transit union strikes, union dues collection by employers, stringent prevailing wage laws, the most out-of-step, union-favoring arbitration laws and the absence of right-to-work laws in Pennsylvania are a huge drag on the economy," Haulk and Gamrat say.

The bottom line, they stress, is that "teacher strikes are clearly a failure of Pennsylvania government to act in the best interests of students and taxpayers while favoring a powerful special interest."

And that clearly is anathema to sound public policy.

Colin McNickle, an occasional PennLive Opinion contributor, is a senior fellow and media specialist at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy in Pittsburgh. Readers may email him at [email protected].