Two Districts Heading Back; Substitutes Line Up For Other Jobs
Undated (AP) _ Hundreds of substitute teachers are lining up to fill positions left vacant by striking Pennsylvania educators, but unions are crying foul play.
On Friday nine districts were on strike, with 1,077 teachers off the job, disrupting classes for 18,729 students.
Most districts stricken by walkouts either have substitute teachers or are looking for them, and that’s got unions and teachers’ representatives fuming while the state Department of Education keeps watch.
″Baby sitting activities and sort of half-baked activities is what we are watching out for,″ said department spokeswoman Janet Elfing. ″Everyone knows they are not talking about peak education, but we want to make sure it’s something close.″
Upper Dauphin, Dauphin County, and Dallastown, York County, are operating with temporary replacement instructors. Dallastown is fully staffed and Upper Dauphin is running grades 1-4 and 9-12 and expects to open the remaining classes by the middle of next week, according to Superintendent Andrew Hills.
Millersburg, Dauphin County, is bringing students back Monday using substitutes from as far as 100 miles away, said Superintendent William Knisely. He said local substitutes crossing the picket line may have to face angry faculty members later in the year.
Millersburg obtained lists of substitutes from districts that settled strikes, Knisely said. The district is offering $125 a day for the interim teachers compared to its usual $65 rate.
Red Lion, York County, also plans to start seniors at the beginning of the week and possibly other grades if enough substitutes apply. And Girard school board officials in Erie County have authorized hiring temporary replacements, said Superintendent James Ryland. He said he hopes to open classes there next week.
The York City district, York County, is not using substitutes and has no immediate plans to hire them, spokeswoman Debi Beshore said.
″Regardless of what people tell you from the management side, there is a pool of people (to substitute),″ said George Badner of the Pennsylvania State Education Association.
″It’s my understanding that some of these folks are coming in from out of state,″ he said. ″We suspect that a number of these people have not undergone the proper checks.″
But Education Department inspectors who visit strike-bound schools checking for certification violations and haven’t found any uncertified substitutes, Elfing said. Strike substitutes must be Pennsylvania certified in the subjects they teach.
″There is this rumor (about violations) but it is just that - rumor,″ Elfing said. She added that if a district is reported for having unqualified substitutes during a strike, its state subsidy is cut the following year.
Meanwhile, East Pennsboro educators in Cumberland County were off the picket line and getting ready to teach again beginning Monday. Negotiators reached a tentative settlement early Friday morning, but neither side released details. East Penn’s 150 teachers went on strike Sept. 3, idling 2,273 students.
Things were looking up in Central York, York County, as well, as teachers planned to return to the classroom Wednesday after reaching a tentative salary agreement. Negotiators there scheduled a meeting Monday to work on remaining details. There are 2,991 students in Central York and 205 seniors have been in class with eight or nine substitutes during the strike.
Rounding out Friday’s walkout list were 800 teachers in the Bethlehem Area district where 12,400 students have been out of class sporadically since the beginning of a selective strike earlier this month. It was the ninth day this month that a strike paralyzed the district.
Bethlehem district officials said they will go to Northampton County Court Monday seeking an injunction barring the selective strike. The district contends that Act 195 allowing public employees to strike is unconstitutional, said Ellis Katz, labor counsel and chief negotiator for the Bethlehem Area school board.
The board won’t ask the court to bar a traditional strike, but merely stop the selective strike which keeps parents and teachers from knowing whether school will be held until the night before.
Teachers in Wilkinsburg, Allegheny County, returned to work after staging a two-day walkout.