Furloughed Teachers Prepare To Return

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TUNKHANNOCK -- The union representing teachers at Tunkhannock Area School District is now tallying up back pay and benefits for teachers furloughed from their jobs last year.

This comes after a judge denied the district's appeal of a court order.  The judge agreed those teachers must get their jobs and their money back.

It is another victory in the fight that began more than a year ago to get 32 furloughed teachers their jobs back in Tunkhannock.

This week a judge ruled in the teacher's favor, denying the district's appeal of an arbitrator decision ordering the teachers return to their jobs.

"She was one of my favorite teachers and I think it's really cool to have her back, maybe," said third grader Joseph Arieta.

Joseph Arieta and his mom are glad the furloughed teachers are returning, even if it costs the district more than $1 million.

"It's tough, but there are choices. When I think about my children and how important their education is to me, having good teachers is really important," said Marcia Arieta of Tunkhannock.

The question is now whether the school board will appeal again and if not, will taxes go up.

The school district didn't respond to our search for answers but any tax hike gets mixed reaction from taxpayers.

"That will be bad," said Stephanie Humill of Tunkhannock.  "We have a lot of gas people around here and that raised prices to start up with and if taxes go up even more, that will hurt some of the small time people."

"They go up, they go down, but it's all good because the kids are your first priority, your children, because your children are tomorrow's world," said Gale Inman.

The teachers union says not only does the district have to return the teachers' jobs, but also all back pay and costs to the teachers, including health care. The union is tallying all that up.

"It's been horrendous," said teachers' union president Christa Burke. "We've had several teachers find other positions, most have been on unemployment compensation not even knowing if they were ever going back."

Burke says the legal battle has put two-year-old contract negotiations on hold. She hopes with this judge's ruling, that battle is done.

"I hope so. I think we need to sit down and we know these are very hard times. This is time to sit down with the association to be reasonable about an agreement and what we need to do in the future to help the community, the students and the taxpayers."

The union says of the 32 furloughed teachers, 27 are coming back, five got jobs elsewhere.