The Rules of Bargaining with Teachers' Unions in Pennsylvania Need to Change in Light of the Recession and the Economic Drivers Impacting School Districts

By: Jeffrey T. Sultanik, Esquire, Chair of the Education Law Group, Fox Rothschild LLP

In every issue of School Business Daily, there are reports of school entities throughout the nation being forced to consider cutbacks of staff and teachers’ unions considering concessionary contracts. This national trend has, in large part, been precipitated by the Great Recession of October 2008, which has challenged school entities and state revenues regardless of the jurisdiction.

Notwithstanding this national trend, teachers’ unions in Pennsylvania seem to be immune and/or insensitive from recognizing the pervasive impact that the economy has had on school entity operations in Pennsylvania, as well as the specific economic drivers that impact school funding in the State.

In Pennsylvania, it has been my premise that the education sector was slow to be impacted by the Great Recession and it very well will take much longer to recover from the Great Recession and the issues that flow from the situation.

Even though the Consumer Price Index for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania hovered for a good portion of the 2009 calendar year in the -1% territory, overall salary increases in the Commonwealth for the 2009-2010 school year averaged 4.2% per year or $2,422.00 as an average raise. The highest raise for 2009-2010 was 7.9% in the State or $5,294.00, and the lowest raise was 1.8% or $1,065.00. Though many of these settlements predated the October 2008 inception of the Great Recession, a number of contract settlements continued this trend in a post-October 2008 world.

According to PSEA statistics submitted in an October 2009 Fact Finding in Lehigh County, the following represents the average percentage increase and average dollar increase for the year in question throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania:

Year

Average Percentage Increase Including Step Movement

Average Dollar Increase

2010-2011

4.1%

$2,434.00

2011-2012

4.1%

$2,553.00

2012-2013

4.1%

$2,600.00

2013-2014

4.3%

$2,763.00

Even though this trend appears to be constant in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, according to the Bureau of National Affairs, the average percentage increase for collectively bargained contracts (private and public sector nationally) is hovering in the average of 1.6%.1 Something is wrong here and in future blog pieces, we will try to address the reasons for what is going on in bargaining.

Notes:
1 - See Daily Labor Report, February 11, 2010.

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