Friday, September 18, 2009

Middle School Back To School Night

Neshaminy School District hosted its annual Back To School activities at its three middle schools on September 17, where parents attend "classes" hosted by their students' teachers. The NFT took this opportunity to hand out literature to arriving parents, proudly providing instructions on "how to negotiate a fair contract" and accusing the District of "failing to understand the basics of negotiating". A copy of the NFT's handout appears at the bottom of this post.

The Board's position from the beginning has been that many of the major provisions of the expired contract cannot continue to be supported by residents. Neshaminy remains the only district in Bucks County where teachers pay nothing toward their health care premiums, incur only generic co-pays for brand-name drugs, receive a large lump-sum cash payment at retirement along with a free health benefits package until age 65, and receive salary credit for enrolling in non-Masters Degree courses. In addition, Neshaminy teachers work fewer contract hours and have fewer steps before reaching the top of the salary scale than any other district. On top of all this, they are asking for annual 6-7 percent salary increases. It is important to note that none of these provisions do anything to improve educational programs for students in Neshaminy.

Unfortunately, the NFT has thus far indicated no willingness to address any of these issues, and with regard to health care coverage has explicitly stated that "paying for health care premiums is non-negotiable, and has been from day one". In this light, their accusation that the District is not bargaining in good faith and is unwilling to compromise rings very hollow.

As stated before on multiple occasions, the Board believes it has presented a fair contract proposal from the start of negotiations in January 2008, offering an average annual salary increase in excess of 3 percent while simply asking the NFT to negotiate contract terms that are similar to what every other District in Bucks County has. Since negotiations began, the nation has experienced its worst economic downturn in 75 years, many local residents have lost their jobs, and residents have seen their retirement nest eggs cut in half. In addition, District-funded teacher pension costs are expected to soar, and State aid to school districts is under severe stress as Pennsylvania deals with its own budget shortfalls. Despite all this, the Board has left virtually all of its proposals intact, and even offered to provide a more comprehensive health plan than its initial proposal.

We continue to hope that the NFT will recognize that "business as usual" is over in Neshaminy. The Board remains receptive to alternative ideas that address the above-mentioned issues, but we cannot expect residents to continue to fund salary and benefit provisions that are so far out of line with what everyone else offers.