Negotiations Update: April 23, 2018
Negotiations Update – April 23, 2018
Formal negotiations between the Great Valley School District and its teachers union, the Great Valley Education Association, began in January. Like many school districts across the state and country, Great Valley is following a corporate-based model in which school board members are not actively sitting at the negotiations table. Instead, professional negotiators are working out details of proposals based on the board’s goals and direction. The board continually receives verbal and written updates and continues to guide negotiators based on the board’s clearly defined goals.
The school board has published four primary goals on the district’s website:
- Negotiate a contract that allows the district to continue to allocate funds for the preservation and protection of the high quality programs that are hallmarks of the Great Valley School District and necessary for the district’s continued success.
- Implement a health care plan that provides fair coverage for employees but also helps to lower its geometric increases in health care premiums to the school district. Great Valley has seen a 46% increase in health care costs over the last three years.
- Remain competitive by offering a compensation package that continues to attract and retain high quality teachers.
- Provide parameters that maximize employee time and professional development while offering a supportive and collaborative working environment.
The school board has tremendous respect for the district’s teachers. This is evidenced in part by the fact that teacher salaries remain the highest of any public school district in Chester County, while the district’s student/teacher ratios are among the lowest. In addition, the teachers’ healthcare package is the most premium of any school district within Chester County.
The Board entered optimistically into negotiations and will continue to bargain with a positive attitude. At the same time, the board must work within financial limits and realities. According to Act 1, Great Valley can’t raise taxes by more than 2.4 percent for the coming school year without taking that increase to a voter referendum.
If an agreement between the union and the school board can’t be reached by August 15, both sides have agreed that to ask the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board to appoint a neutral fact finder. In fact finding, a third party, neutral arbitrator analyzes the facts of the bargaining differences and issues a series of package recommendations within 40 days. Both the school district and the Association must vote to accept or reject the entire report within 10 days of receiving it. If either side rejects it, it is made public and the parties must vote again. The recommendations of the fact finder are not binding, and both sides could continue to negotiate or take additional steps. Under law, no strike may occur during the fact finding resolution process.
The board remains hopeful that an agreement can be reached that is mutually beneficial to the school district and its teachers.