Harrisburg, Pennsylvania School District and Teacher’s Union Enter Arbitration
Wednesday, February, 18, 2015
Sticking on the definition of the phrase ‘fair pay’ in the teacher’s contract, the Harrisburg School District and the Harrisburg Education Association (HEA) are poised to submit their contract dispute to arbitration. The HEA voted overwhelmingly to reject a 5% pay cut the district insists is necessary to keep the district financially viable.
The HEA, however, claims the district is misrepresenting its financial picture, arguing it’s much rosier than they make it seem. The HEA also feels very strongly that their prior agreement to pay cuts and deferred benefits is largely responsible for the good financial picture of the district today.
The dispute dates back to 2013 when the district predicted it would fall $4.5 million short of its budget needs. The HEA worked with the district, accepting a 5% pay cut and increasing its contribution to health plans. The strategy resulted in a budget surplus of more than $11 million by late 2013. The HEA believes the contract should have been voided and re-negotiated at that point.
Regarding teacher compensation, the HEA claims Harrisburg teachers make an average of $10,000 less than teachers in neighboring districts. However, based on 2013 data, Harrisburg teachers earn approximately $4,000 less than other teachers statewide.
The district blames rising healthcare costs, saying that plan costs are expected to go up by 13% this year, making pay increases impossible without raising taxes. The HEA counters by reporting that nearly 200 teachers have retired or left the district specifically because of low compensation.