Editorial: Pa. too diverse for blanket ban on teacher strikes

By Pitt News Staff

‘ ‘ ‘ For kids, schoolteacher strikes might mean an extra vacation from school. But for… ‘ ‘ ‘ For kids, schoolteacher strikes might mean an extra vacation from school. But for teachers and school boards, compromise and negotiations are sure to ensue. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ Even with lessened rates of grade-school teacher strikes across Pennsylvania over the past several years, the state has still seen its share of strikes. The state law governing teacher strikes, however, hasn’t been changed for the 17 years since Act 88, a 1992 policy that limits the length of teacher strikes. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ But state Rep. Todd Rock, R-Franklin, wants to eliminate teacher strikes altogether. Last week, Franklin announced his reintroduction of the Strike-Free Education Act, which he also sponsored in 2007, according to the Post-Gazette. Under this proclamation, any violating teacher would lose two days’ pay for each day spent striking, and the instigators of a strike would pay a penalty of $5,000. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ No one, including the teachers, ever wants to see a strike initiated. Strikes represent the ultimate failure to communicate and compromise between two sides. While strikes sometimes result in immediate fulfillment of the initiating party’s demands, they inevitably damage the relationship between the strikers and the overseeing authoritative body. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ Yet a statewide policy prohibiting schoolteacher strikes just wouldn’t be effective. Undoubtedly, Rock recognizes the value of children’s education. Despite any good intentions, a blanket-policy act applied to the entire state would be too broad to maximize effectiveness. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ Pennsylvania is too diverse in its geographical and socioeconomic composition for this policy to be useful. The schools, student bodies and communities surrounding the state’s two largest cities, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, differ in their needs and makeup compared to those found in more rural, less populated areas. Pennsylvania also has suburban areas such as those surrounding smaller cities like Lancaster and Harrisburg. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ Because of these variances, teachers might need to exercise their ability to strike in districts where their basic needs aren’t met. Used correctly and as a last resort, the strike can be an effective and fully warranted tool. Sure, the community and parents cringe when their children miss out on schooling, but strikes don’t necessarily hinder education. Strikes didn’t affect scores of state tests within a district from one year to the next and between districts, according to a Pennsylvania State Education Association study.’ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ Because local property taxes finance most Pennsylvania grade schools, it would make more sense if the decision to forbid strikes was made by the individual districts. Again, the needs of teachers in a given district are specific to that district. The amount of funding for teachers’ salaries and the conditions teachers face differ greatly across the state, and the law should reflect that. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ Although 37 states already adopted this measure, Pennsylvania should stay absent from this crowd. This policy might be worth initiating if Pennsylvania were not such a diverse state, but that’s not the case.