By Ben Velderman
LANGHORNE, Pa. – The five-year contract battle between the leaders of a large, suburban Philadelphia school district and its local teachers union is finally over.
And it’s not difficult to figure out who won.
On Thursday night, community members loudly applauded and congratulated Neshaminy school board members after they unanimously approved a new contract with the Neshaminy Federation of Teachers that will save the district “anywhere from $2.5 to $4 million during the next two years,” reports the PhillyBurbs.com.
In stark contrast, NFT leaders issued a subdued statement in which they talked about “moving forward” and the need to “begin a new chapter in the life of our school district.”
That’s union-speak for “we got whupped.”
Things were much more celebratory at the school board meeting, where community members thanked school leaders for taking a hard line with the union – and sticking to it.
“You led, the community followed,” parent Steve Pirritano told the board, according to PhillyBurbs.com. “You led with the truth and all we wanted was what was fair. We’ve been called a lot of names over the years, from union busters to anti-teacher to teacher-haters. But nothing could be further from the truth. The people that were involved in this, as well as the board, were in it to benefit Neshaminy, the community and the children it’s designed to serve.”
The community is right to praise school board President Ritchie Webb and his colleagues, who stuck to their guns and managed to get a wide array of concessions from the union.
According to the Levittown Patch, the new contract does away with clauses that effectively gave union members veto power over decisions made by school principals.
The new contract also requires teachers to work a half-hour longer every day and contribute to their own health insurance costs.
And the new deal finally retires the $27,500 early retirement incentive that was breaking the district’s bank account.
It’s not all long faces and “givebacks” for teachers, however. They will receive a “lucrative” pay package that will result in a “positive impact on their salaries,” reports the PhillyBurbs.com and Levitttown Patch, respectively.
The board president was magnanimous in victory.
“I call it a new beginning,” Webb said, according to the Levittown Patch. “How many times have we all said, ‘I wish I had the opportunity to start all over again?’ I think Neshaminy has that ability.”
The happy ending to Neshaminy’s long-running (and often ugly) drama offers a lesson for the nation: If America’s school leaders stand up to union bullies, they, too, can reclaim control of their school districts.