DALLAS TWP. — Tuesday’s Dallas School District teachers’ strike will be followed by a Wednesday court hearing after a judge ordered them back to work.
The district’s lawyer also hopes that hearing could lead to court oversight of what has been a bitter and protracted contract negotiation process, something the union requested in a motion of its own.
“The board is in complete support of it,” school board attorney Vito DeLuca said, adding that the move would require a set number of negotiation sessions per week until a contract was reached. “I think that’s a positive step.”
Union president Michael Cherinka was not able to be reached for comment on the order.
Also Tuesday, the district announced the last day of school would be moved from June 28 to June 29.
Members of the Dallas Education Association carried signs that said ‘DEA on strike’ as well as ‘Dallas School Board Work With Us, Enough is Enough’ Tuesday morning as they walked along the district’s campus perimeter along Conyngham Avenue and Hildebrandt Road.
The strike followed a heated school board meeting Monday, at which board members passed a $38.6 million budget for the 2018-19 school year, but not the union’s latest contract proposal.
As they picketed, state Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera on Tuesday filed a court petition asking a judge to send the educators back to work, since anything more than a one-day strike would prevent students from receiving the full 180 days of instruction by June 30, as required by law.
State law says teachers can strike two times a year as long as the first strike ends in time to complete 180 school days by June 15. A second strike must end in time to complete 180 days by June 30.
Cherinka previously told a reporter that the strike was only expected to last one day for this reason.
Still, Luzerne County Judge William H. Amesbury ordered the teachers back to work on Wednesday, and set a hearing for 2 p.m. Wednesday on the matter.
Amesbury’s order came as no surprise to DeLuca, who called it “standard operating procedure.”
But, DeLuca added, it also technically qualifies the district for mandatory non-binding arbitration, something the teachers’ union had refused in the past.
DeLuca did express hope regarding another motion filed in court Tuesday, in which the Dallas Education Association filed to have court supervised negotiation.
On June 13, the Dallas Education Association emailed the “olive branch” offer to Dallas School District Superintendent Thomas Duffy with a stipulation that it is accepted “as is” or the teachers would strike, Mark McDade, the union’s chief negotiator said.
“Our offer is representative of prior district offers,” McDade said. “It is disingenuous of them to say they can’t afford it.”
The union’s proposal offered health care contributions, a two-year wage freeze and early retirement incentives, Cherinka said.
Monday night, District Business Manager Grant Palfey compared of the union’s June 13 offer against the district’s May 29 offer, which revealed some similarities and some differences.
Under the district’s proposal the current average salary is $62,076 for a Dallas teacher, which remains the same with the union’s offer, Palfey said.
However, the average salary for the 2018-19 school year would be $67,505 under the district’s offer, he said. The union’s proposal shows the average wage would increase to $77,087, Palfey said.
The district’s offer had a two percent average salary increase, but the union’s proposal calls for a six percent increase, he said.
Health care contributions varied, according to Palfey. Under the district’s proposal, health care contributions were estimated to be $1,923, he said. But, the union’s offer contributions were $634, Palfey said.
Teachers went on strike in November 2016 for 22 days and in September 2017 for seven days.
The next negotiation meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, June 20, McDade said.
“The teachers’ goal of the strike is to raise the level of debate on the contract,” McDade said.
Reach Eileen Godin at 570-991-6387 or on Twitter @TLNews.