South Butler School District teachers will strike Thursday

Updated 4 minutes ago

Teachers in the South Butler School District will go on strike this morning.

Brooke Witt, labor consultant for the teachers union, said a strike was called after “no new proposals” were submitted by the school district last night.

South Butler district Solicitor Thomas Breth countered that the school board presented its “best offer” Tuesday night, but the teachers union did not come back with a counter-offer Wednesday.

“The teachers refused,” Breth said.

Witt countered that the school district didn’t budge, either.

The 168-member union has been working under the terms of its last contract since its expired June 30, 2014. The two sides began negotiating in January 2014.

On March 1, the teachers informed the district they would strike unless a new contract could be hammered out by Wednesday night.

The next negotiation session has not been scheduled.

However, Breth said negotiations can resume when the union contacts the district.

“An email, a text, a phone call that they want to get to the table and we are ready,” he said.

The school district announced last week that there would be no classes Thursday for the districts 2,400 students Thursday, regardless of whether the teachers announced a strike.

Strike will be limited

The number of class days during which teachers may strike is limited by state law.

They must return by a date that will allow the students to receive 180 days of class instruction by the end of June.

That date won’t be determined until the teachers strike and the district gets the date from the state Education Department, Breth said earlier this week.

Class days needed to make up missed time will be announced at a later date, the statement said.

Athletics, buses unaffected

Breth confirmed Wednesday night that all athletic and other district events will be held as scheduled.

The district also indicated earlier that the district will continue to provide transportation for students enrolled in nonpublic, special education outside the district, vocational school and alternative programs.

The district serves K-12 students in Clinton, Jefferson, Penn and Winfield townships and Saxonburg.

The district also employs about 50 full- and part-time other employees and 16 administrators.

Money is key issue

The teachers insist there’s enough money in the district’s $8 million-plus fund balance to increase pay and keep the teachers’ contributions to their health insurance lower.

The teachers are seeking full retroactive raises dating back to mid-2014.

The school district is unwilling to do either.

“The fund balance would be wiped out within the seven-year term” of the proposed contract if all of the teacher demands are met, Breth said.

Witt said about $1.5 million of the reserve money has been set aside to offset teacher pensions. “Why not use some of the other reserve money?”

Chuck Biedka is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4711, or via Twitter @ChuckBiedka. Staff writer Madasyn Czebiniak contributed to this report.

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