Students in the Danville Area School District have been forced out of the classroom by the teachers union’s decision to strike, and there is talk of changing the June 6 graduation date for seniors.
The root of the turmoil imposed upon the children and their parents is the union’s dissatisfaction with an average salary of $62,000. In the 2011-2012 academic year, the last for which the expired contract with the union was in effect, elementary school teacher Holly Patterson hauled in $70,000, while Deborah Slattery – a secondary education instructor – pulled down $69,000.
Teachers are required to work seven hours each day (excluding a half-hour paid for lunch) and 188 days a year, so they get an equivalent of $47 an hour. The average Montour County employee, meanwhile, earns $33.50 an hour.
The teachers are also much better off than the region’s private-sector workforce when it comes to benefits. Educators pay none of the premiums for their vision and dental insurance and only 10 percent of the cost for their health insurance. Private sector employees pay 27 percent of their health insurance premiums, on average.
Teachers also receive up to $75,000 a year to further their education, so long as they takes courses related to their field, and they get 20 days paid leave.
The teachers’ lavish benefits help explain why spending in the district has shot from $22.7 million in 2000-01 to $31.3 million in 2010-11 – a 38 percent increase – even though enrollment has dipped 13 percent over the same period of time (from 2,781 students in 2001-02 to 2,417 in 2011-12).
And while teachers’ salaries have continued to rise, the same cannot necessarily be said about their students’ achievement. One in four 11th graders in the district is not proficient in math, while one in five is not proficient in reading. The teachers strike could end as early as next week when negotiators head back to the bargaining table.