Neshaminy residents head to Harrisburg to oppose teachers' strikes

Abouty 20 parents and students of the Neshaminy School District met at the Neshaminy Mall this morning to carpool to Harrisburg for a "Putting Students First" rally.

They were meeting other residents who were driving to the state capital on their own, for the rally and the reading of House Bill 1369, which would prohibit teachers strikes. The rally was organized by state Rep. Frank Farry, R-Bucks, a Neshaminy graduate, who also has arranged for the residents to tour the Capitol after the rally.

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Lisa Begley of Langhore sports a "Strike-Free Education" T-shirt that she wore to Harrisburg. (Bil Reed/Staff)

"I'm going to show support for the bill," said Colleen Rilling of Langhorne, with her son Chris, an 8th-grader at Carl Sandberg Middle School in the car. "Teachers' strikes are just wrong. Kids need to be in school. This is  the second strike thus year. The kids are deeply affected."

State law allows teachers to strike, but they must return to work in time to complete the 180-day school year by June 30. The law, Act 88, also requires the teachers' union and the district to go through nonbinding arbitration following a strike.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Todd Rock, R-Franklin, contains financial penalties, including a $5,000 individual fine, per incident, for inciting a strike; striking teachers losing two days of pay for each day of an illegal strike; and the striking union forfeiting its dues check-off privilege for one year.  

In the past decade, Pennsylvania has led the country with 94 teacher strikes, affecting 247,000  students, according to Rock’s web site. Thirty-seven states, including New Jersey, prohibit teacher strikes.

The 633-member Neshaminy Federation of Teachers went no strike in January for eight days, and today marks the start of Week 2 of its second strike. The state Department of Education has filed a request for an injunction to ensure that the teachers, guidance counselors, librarians and nurses return to work by Friday. Union leaders have said they will comply with the deadline.  

Union members have worked without a raise for four years, under an expired contract that the district says it cannot afford. It also cannot afford the terms recommended by an independent arbitrator, which would cost $20 million, school board President Ritchie Webb has said.