Old Forge Teachers: Health Care at Issue

OLD FORGE — Teachers in the Old Forge School District hit the picket lines this morning only a few days into the new school year.

According to the statewide teacher’s union, Old Forge has had more strikes in recent years than any other district in the state. Tuesday morning, teachers said this contract battle is far from over.

Old Forge teachers have gone four years without a contract and without a raise. Their union and district officials can agree that one issue is a heart, and that’s healthcare.

For the second time in a year, teachers took to the picket lines to protest what the district’s offering.

“We realize that times are changing and healthcare costs are affecting everyone, and that`s why we`ve offered those concessions in benefits but the district just doesn`t want to hear us,” said Old Forge Education Association President Patrick McLane.

McLane wouldn’t elaborate on what those concessions are.

A negotiator for the school district said the teachers’ healthcare plan hasn’t changed since the 1970′s and their asking teachers to start paying premiums.

After hours of picketing Tuesday, teachers saw plenty of supporters and dissenters alike.

Joseph Gasdik came to make his point of view heard, that the district’s healthcare costs aren’t sustainable for taxpayers like him.

“I appreciate what they`re doing but they’ve got to understand it`s time for a change, it`s got to be different, it`s every school not just this one,” Gasdik said.

Old Forge teachers said their situation is unique, since they’re the lowest paid teachers in Lackawanna County and administrators have already said their four years of retroactive raises are off the table.

“We feel the same pressure, the same pain, many of our teachers are parents in the district so they have children who go to school here. We`d much rather be in there teaching┬áthe students. But, after four years we feel like this is the only recourse we have,” added McLane.

According to state law, the teachers in Old Forge can strike long enough to push the last day of school back to June 15.

And since no new negotiations have been planned, the teachers said they could be in for long haul, out of class for three to four weeks.

Teachers are also on strike in the Wyoming Area School District in Luzerne County.