By Ben Velderman
LANGHORNE, Pa. – As if the Neshaminy Federation of Teachers has not caused enough trouble already.
Now the union, which made national headlines by going on strike twice this year over a contract dispute with the school board, is trying to reinstate a teacher who was fired after being convicted of shoplifting.
Back in December 2010, Neshaminy middle school teacher Tara Buske was arrested for stealing $381.99 in merchandise from a Kmart store. School officials subsequently discovered she had misused and misrepresented her sick leave in order to hide scheduled court appearances.
In July 2011 – seven months later – the Neshaminy school board determined “the alleged conduct has affected her competence and effectiveness as a teacher, and therefore she is not competent to teach based upon the charge of immorality,” reports PhillyBurbs.com.
By any standard, the board’s decision was fair, deliberate, and perfectly reasonable.
Nevertheless, the union filed “a grievance on Buske’s behalf, claiming her dismissal was without just cause and requesting that her record be expunged,” the news site reports.
The district denied the grievance, which sent the case into arbitration.
This past May – 18 months after Buske’s arrest – arbitrator Rochelle Kaplan ruled that the teacher’s behavior did not qualify as immoral conduct, “and so there was no just cause for Buske’s termination,” PhillyBurbs.com reports.
Kaplan noted that Buske received a lengthy suspension without pay and benefits, and ruled that the district must reinstate her to her former position once the court dismisses her criminal case and expunges her record (all of which will occur under a state rehabilitation program designed for first-time, nonviolent offenders).
School officials stand by their conclusion that Buske violated the district’s moral conduct code, and are appealing the ruling.
“The Arbitrator decided the case contrary to both the essence of the collective bargaining agreement and to the law and the award is clearly irrational in light of the facts as found by the arbitrator,” district officials wrote in a legal petition to overturn the decision.
This type of madness is made possible – even encouraged – through the collective bargaining process that enables school employees to usurp control over school operations. Elected officials should be the ones to determine if a teacher is fit to lead a classroom – not some unelected, unaccountable arbitrator who bends over backward to please the unions.
By defending the indefensible, the NFT is once again reminding everyone why organized labor is such a bad fit for public schools.