Teachers Protest Contract Stalemate
Union president claims board refuses to negotiate
Several dozen Hatboro-Horsham teachers, toting blue signs in protest of the ongoing teacher contract negotiations, picketed outside Monday night’s school board meeting.
During the meeting, Hatboro-Horsham Education Association President Jackie Anderson, after congratulating Superintendent Curtis Griffin on receiving his doctorate degree, read a lengthy and highly critical prepared statement about the school board and what she claimed was members’ unwillingness to settle the contract.
“The board chooses not to negotiate,” Anderson said as teachers, holding signs which read “95 DAYS & STILL NO RESPONSE FROM BOARD” and “TEACHERS ARE WORKING SCHOOL BOARD ISN’T” filled the standing-room-only board room to capacity. “The board has chosen to spend its time stonewalling,” she said.
Anderson could not provide the date of the last negotiation session, but instead pointed out that the board’s announcement that it would return to formal negotiations was 55 days ago. She also said the board requested a counter-proposal for their last offer, which the union rejected in November, 95 days ago.
Following the meeting, Board President Barbara LaSorsa said the board’s legal counsel had reached out to the union’s representation to arrange a negotiation session, but had not yet received a response. Reading from a prepared statement, LaSorsa said it was “disappointing” that the teachers chose to protest and reiterated her position as announced in January that the board would return to formal negotiation sessions.
The district’s more than 400 teachers have been working without a contract since it expired in the summer of 2009 - 20 months ago as some of the teachers’ signs pointed out.
Anderson said after the meeting that health insurance – and how much teachers are being asked to pay – is the major sticking point. Hatboro-Horsham teachers currently contribute 11 percent, she said, and could potentially pay more, while teachers from other districts pay 3 percent.
“We really want them to negotiate,” Anderson said. “We’re asking for reasonable things.”
Resident Gary Conner disagreed. In a prepared statement, Conner said the district was being “held hostage by 425 teachers.”
“Declare federal bankruptcy, it solves all the problems,” Conner said. “Teacher contracts and all the rules disappear.”
Another resident asked how the district could consider installing artificial turf when teachers could potentially be furloughed as a result of a $2 million budget shortfall.
“We did not give you carte blanche to spend our hard-earned money on whatever you feel like,” the woman said. “I won’t sit quietly while you waste my tax money.”
Reading from a statement, LaSorsa said the district has not yet made a decision on whether artificial turf would be installed. She said the board needed to start the land development process, which includes receiving bids through the end of March, should the board opt to move forward.
Upgrades to the district’s athletic fields, much like roof, boiler and other building and facility maintenance, are aimed at keeping students and community members safe and need to be carried out regardless of budget shortfalls or stalled teacher contract negotiations.
“We understand it’s your money,” LaSorsa said, “not ours.”