Sit down and settle BP

Published Aug 28, 2013 at 2:55 pm (Updated Aug 28, 2013 at 2:55 pm)

Come on Bethel Park School District and teachers. It’s time to negotiate a new contract.

Students are buying their backpacks, sharpening pencils and picking out the clothes they’ll wear the first day of school, yet the district and the Bethel Park Federation of Teachers can’t seem to reach an agreement on a new contract.

The old one expired more than three years ago on June 30, 2010. Even a pregnant African elephant would have given birth by now.

Contract negotiations in other school districts always seem to get hung up on salaries and benefits and that appears to be the same in Bethel Park.

Teachers have a great responsibility to guide and instruct the young in preparation for the real world. It’s not an easy task. However, it’s also not laying asphalt in the sun on a 95-degree day, cleaning sanitary sewer grates after a storm or collecting garbage during a snow storm.

Students, administrators and teachers get to stay home during winter’s strongest blast calling it a “snow day.” Like to see what would happen if a garbage collector took the day off because the roads were slippery.

Contributions to teachers’ pension plans have risen by $2.3 million in Bethel Park since the 2009-10 school year. Wonder how much that amount has increased since the last contract? And while some teachers, and administrators, continue to teach well into their 60s and 70s, after 35 years in the teaching profession, retirement is offered. It can be lower, like 30 years under certain circumstances, in neighboring Peters Township School District.

For many, retirement is achieved and compensated at age 57. That leaves plenty of time to relax and enjoy the Golden Years, long before the years turn golden.

And, no, the district is not without fault. Negotiators for the district keep playing the trump card: the goal is to keep taxes down. Yet, in Bethel Park, where no contract had been hashed out, taxes have gone up, yes gone up, for the last four years. The district cites rising costs, from utilities to state funding cuts. Sounds like what taxpayers are already facing with little or no raises, rising utility, food and health care costs, and in many districts, increased school taxes.

Thankfully, Bethel Park teachers have only walked the picket line once since June 30. One has to wonder how much longer before there is another strike.

From bright-eyed little ones in kindergarten, to seniors in the process of planning their future, the threat of a strike is always there.

So, to the negotiators on both sides, sit down, clear the mind and come to a fair agreement.

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