SOUTH ABINGTON TOWNSHIP — It was the first day of school for students in the Abington Heights School District in Lackawanna County and already there’s conflict brewing.
Parents, teachers, and administrators gathered Wednesday night to discuss a possible strike that’s scheduled for next week.
“We, the teachers, do have a strike planned for next week.”
It was a bold message from Abington Heights Teachers Union President Jim Maria to the school board.
The teachers will go on strike on September 11 if there isn’t an increase in salaries.
Teachers have been working without a contract since 2011 and say their pay has remained the same since.
“We’re just hoping we can come to some terms on things like retro-active pay and a reasonable increase so that people can stay competitive,” said Maria.
“I don`t remember ever a time when negotiations ran on and a contract expired for a year or more when retro-activity was not done,” said parent Alex Fried.
The school board held an informational session to lay out the district`s finances. To meet the union’s salary demands, the board said it would cost the district more than $15 million over a six-year period. That would call for an 18 percent increase in school taxes, meaning the average homeowner would pay an extra $422 a year.
The average homeowner already pays more than $2,300 in school taxes alone, which the district said is the highest in Lackawanna County.
The district`s counter offer for a teachers’ raise would cost a little more than $3 million over six years.
“I submit while yes, we need to have reasonable increases for our teachers and our teachers have to be better off next year than the year before, we have to be reasonable and responsible,” said Superintendent Dr. Michael Mahon.
“I make $22,000 a year after I pay my health insurance and taxes. I`m a CNA. I work 12 hour night shifts. I feel that I work just as hard as a teacher or any other person that is employed,” said parent Roxanne Evans.
The teachers union has two negotiating sessions planned with district officials; one on September 8 and one on September 10.
If an agreement is not reached, the teachers plan to strike on September 11.