By Ben Velderman
LANGHORNE, Pa. – One of the nation’s longest-running contract disputes appears to the nearing an end.
For the past five years, the Neshaminy school board and the Neshaminy Federation of Teachers have locked horns over the terms of a new teachers’ contract. Negotiations became so toxic during the 2011-12 school year that the union did the unthinkable and waged two teacher strikes against Neshaminy students and parents.
That may all be history soon.
Buck Local News reports that the Neshaminy school board is offering a new contract containing a “significant bump in salary” with one condition: the NFT must give up its “equal voice” provision that allows union members to effectively veto decisions made by school administrators.
The NFT has fought bitterly to preserve educators’ right to have an “equal voice” on school matters. In 2011, the NFT filed a labor grievance against a high school principal for using 45 minutes of an in-service training session on things the union did not approve of. (Fifteen months and thousands of dollars in attorney fees later, the union won its grievance.)
Neshaminy board President Ritchie Webb says that type of nonsense has to stop.
“The reality is that equal voice has hamstrung our principals and administrators because they no longer have the authority in their own buildings,” Webb explained at a recent board meeting, according to the News. “And if they don’t have the authority how can we possibly hold them accountable?”
Webb added that even though the district has serious money problems, “the elimination of the equal voice doctrine is important, if not more important to our next contract than any financial issue.”
NFT leaders have not publicly commented on the board’s offer, but some union members appear willing to take the new contract deal.
“You guys have the ultimate say — which is the way it should be,” Neshaminy teacher Kim May said during Tuesday’s board meeting, according to PhillyBurbs.com. “We don’t want to run this district, we just want to bring our expertise to the table and not have it be dismissed or laughed off.”
That sounded reasonable to board member Scott Congdon.
“I believe the power needs to lie with the administrators,” Congdon said. “But if an administrator is not listening to your input, then come to me because I would like to talk to that administrator.”
May’s remarks indicate that rank-and-file union members understand it’s ridiculous for the NFT to hold veto power over administrators, and they probably know that position won’t fly with taxpayers. Thus, teachers are backing down from that position, on the condition that they receive “assurances” that their opinions will be treated respectfully by administrators.
Our guess is that the board will play along and “promise” to listen to their input, and a new contract will soon be in place.
NFT leaders may be too radical to accept such a deal without cringing, but rank-and-file teachers are undoubtedly more concerned about receiving pay raises than acting as co-principals in their buildings.
After five years of fighting, the entire community is suffering from battle fatigue and is ready for this dispute to be resolved.
Neshaminy dispute may end soon if union drops “equal voice” demand
By Ben Velderman