Dallas teachers set to strike on Monday

By Melanie Mizenko - mmizenko@timesleader.com
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DALLAS — Dallas School District teachers will strike Monday.

Paul Shemansky, regional Pennsylvania State Education Association representative, said Sunday the teachers will be on the picket line at 8:30 a.m.

A notice was sent on Friday by Dallas School District teachers union President Mike Cherinka, announcing Nov. 14 as the date to strike, which was nine days earlier than previously scheduled.

“The last thing that our teachers want to do is go on strike,” Cherinka said in a written statement. “But, an uncompromising school board has forced us into this position. We have given health care concessions to save the school district money, which gives them real savings. But, the school board keeps stonewalling us, which led to this current crisis. Nobody wants to go another year without a new contract,”

The union had first scheduled a strike for Sept. 28, but moved it to Oct. 25, then to Nov. 23.

“Unfortunately … they held no weekend negotiations,” Shemansky said.

While students will not report to class, a statement on the district’s website says that “all offices will be open during the strike. All administrative and support staff should report as scheduled and should contact their immediate supervisors for clarification as needed.”

Also, the statement also said the strike is expected to “last several school days.”

Shemansky said there are budget talks tomorrow night, and he is hopeful that the strike can be over by Tuesday.

“If it’s a longer strike — 10 to 12 days — they will have to have school over Christmas break,” he warned.

District solicitor and lead negotiator Vito DeLuca reiterated a claim Friday he made when the first strike date was set: The district cannot afford to pay teachers what they are asking, and by state law cannot raise taxes enough to do so. The central issues, he said, have always been saving enough money on salaries, pension costs and health care coverage to avoid steep cuts in district programs.

The union has worked under terms of an expired contract for 15 months, and negotiations have gone on for about 18 months.

By state law, teachers can strike twice in one school year. The first strike must end in time to complete 180 school days by June 15, and the second must end in time to complete those days by June 30. The two sides must go through non-binding arbitration after a first strike.

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By Melanie Mizenko

mmizenko@timesleader.com

Reach Melanie Mizenko at 570-991-6116 or on Twitter @TL_MMizenko

Reach Melanie Mizenko at 570-991-6116 or on Twitter @TL_MMizenko