This op ed appeared in the Sunday, December 1, 2013, issue of the York Daily Record.
‘Give us a chance!’ That was the cry of teachers in the York City School District during deliberations on options for a financial recovery plan that took place earlier this year. They tried to convince everyone that even though there have been years of failed attempts to improve the district’s performance, they deserved another chance. They argued that the new internal reform plan presented by their union, the York City Education Association, in collaboration with the administration, would make the district financially solvent and dramatically improve student performance.
Based on the teachers’ commitments to salary and benefit reductions (which included a vote by the Teachers’ Union membership to accept the Recovery Plan), the Recovery Plan was approved in the spring by: the Recovery Advisory Committee, the York City School Board, and the Pennsylvania Department of Education. York County Community Foundation and its YorkCounts committee endorsed the plan and agreed to help make it a success. Better educating our city’s children is of the utmost importance to us.
Progress is being made. Students were invited back to the district and many came back, resulting in a net gain of students for the 2013-2014 school year. Parents, teachers and administrators have invested their time to organize school advisory councils to develop building improvement plans. A district-wide Community Education Council has been established and is meeting its milestones to establish performance standards for the district and move the financial recovery process forward.
Now, just as positive momentum is building, the teachers refuse to honor their commitment to sign a collective bargaining agreement that includes the terms that they agreed to by voting to accept the financial recovery plan. Without a commitment in writing that the union will operate under the newly agreed-upon salary and benefit terms, the district cannot ensure that the new improvement plans for each school will be financially feasible. The District would be foolish to move plans forward and spend money on new initiatives without a guarantee that the salary agreements will be honored.
We applaud the Community Education Council’s decision to hold off on approving specific building plans until the teacher’s contract is signed. As stated in the financial recovery plan, the Council cannot act in a way that would increase the financial burden on the district. They would be violating their obligation to adhere to the plan if they move forward individual school plans without the teachers’ union contract secured. Without a written commitment from the teachers now, the only logical course of action for the Council to follow is to begin the process of identifying outside operators and engaging them to educate the district’s students.
Teachers, this IS your chance. If you are willing to commit to internal reform, honor your agreement and sign the contract.