Methacton teachers go on strike; district cancels classes

Members of the Methacton Education Association walk the picket line in front of the Methacton School DIstrict building on Monday Spetember 18, 2017.

Teachers in the Methacton School District in Montgomery County walked off the job Monday morning after contract talks failed to reach an agreement.

The 403 teachers have been bargaining since January. Their contract expired at the end of June. Teachers set up a picket line about 7:30 a.m. at the Methacton High School.

The district Sunday night canceled classes for Monday after failing to reach a contract agreement with teachers.

Bargaining talks began at 2 p.m. Sunday between the school board and the union representing the district’s 403 teachers. Talks broke off a little after 8:30 p.m. Teachers then said a strike would begin at 7:30 a.m. Monday.

The teachers’ union notified Methacton school officials Friday of its intent to walk off the job Monday morning.

The Methacton Education Association said it was “disappointed” that it was unable to reach an agreement.

“The school board’s position of dramatically increasing the employees’ share of the health-care premium, while not adequately increasing salaries, is unacceptable,” the union said. The teachers’ association said it was “willing to increase premium share by over 23 percent in three years, but that was not sufficient to the district.”

The union said it had 30 minutes to consider the board’s final proposal, and was “more than willing to bargain later than the arbitrary 8 p.m. deadline.”

Diana Kernop, co-president of the 403-member Methacton Education Association, said a hike in the amount teachers pay for health insurance would not offset wage increases offered by the board.

School board president Chris Boardman, said premiums would jump from 13 to 17 percent while the board offered to increase teacher salaries an average of 17 percent over three years. He said the negotiations had been “productive.”

“We are hopeful that talks will resume very soon so that students can get back into their classrooms.”

A mediator is attempting to get both sides back to the table and end the strike, which the union says could last up to 15 days under state law.