"Strike-Free Education" in Pennsylvania?

DALLAS, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) - Late last year, Dallas School District teachers spent about three weeks on the picket lines, giving students an extra long Christmas break in December. The strike, which remains unresolved, left parents fuming.

"We wanted to do something to make a change," said Joanna Cunningham.

This parent is hoping to make the commonwealth strike-free. She started a petition to have an old house bill reintroduced. The "Strike-Free Education Pact" makes strikes by teachers and lockouts by districts illegal.            

"It keeps our kids in school and brings mediation right to the table so people aren’t going two years without a contract," said Cunningham.

Currently, teachers are allowed to strike twice in a school year as long as students complete 180 days of instruction by June 30th. In the Dallas District, the union and district leaders have yet to reach agreement on healthcare and salaries.      And now, with the combination of the strike - and last week's four snow-days:

"It is logistically impossible at this point to fulfill that," said Dallas School Solicitor Vito DeLuca. He says the district risks losing $30,000 for every day they don’t meet the 180 day requirement. While he wouldn't offer his opinion on a strike-free state, he does take issue with Act 88, the collective bargaining legislation.         

"That act has no teeth, the teachers stayed out longer than they were permitted to stay out and there were no consequences," said DeLuca.

Union leaders say they didn't break any rules and claim the district changed the calendar when it announced it would honor the Christmas break. Union officials don't support the strike-free state initiative.

"I believe it's undemocratic. Workers need a way to redress their grievances," said John Holland with the Pennsylvania State Education Association.

The union says they intend to strike on June 2nd if no agreement is reached by May 3rd.


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