AMBRIDGE AREA TEACHERS WALK OFF THE JOB, CLOSING SCHOOLS; SCHOOL DISTRICT RELEASES FACTUAL FINANCIAL INFORMATION RELATIVE TO BARGAINING IMPASSE WITH UNION
District promises transparency and provides timely public information via its website; encourages parents, taxpayers to sign digital petition urging Union to reconsider its wage and benefit demands
(AMBRIDGE, PA) Dec. 12 – Ambridge Area School District will be forced to close schools Tuesday when the District’s approximately 190 teachers represented by Ambridge Area Education Association walk off the job, after months of negotiations on a contract that included the school Board’s request to defer a strike and allow the Union’s rank-and-file membership to vote on the District’s last, best offer. Newly-elected Board President Scott Angus issued the following statement on behalf of the unified nine-member Board and encouraged parents to sign a digital petition located on the District’s website at http://www.ambridge.k12.pa.us/that urges the Union to reconsider its decision. In addition, the District is offering timely information for parents and caregivers who will be adversely affected by teachers walking off the job.
“The Board stands firm in its intent to be responsible stewards of public education and to negotiate a teachers’ contract that reflects the financial realities of this District,” saidAngus.“Our vulnerable young people suffer when the people they look up to fail them. We know that a strike brings difficulty and undue stress to families, but we cannot bend to the Union’s unreasonable demands that would cripple our budget and, by extension, affect the students, parents and taxpayers whose hard-earned dollars support this District. A state-appointed, independent Fact-Finder recommended salary increases far lower than those imposed by the Union. We ask the Union leadership to do what is right for everyone.”
The teachers’ four-year contract expired June 30, 2015. With a spirit of collaboration and a goal of negotiations rooted in financial discipline, the District met with the Union more than 18 times. The two sides reached tentative agreements on several matters, including creative solutions offered by the District such as a $2,000-per-year tuition reimbursement toward teachers’ mandated continuing education, and recently $100 in cash for each educator to purchase much-needed classroom supplies. However, key issues of dispute remain – wages, health care benefits, and retirement incentives.
The average Ambridge Area School District teacher has a salary of $58,741 plus benefits, including family health insurance that costs the District $19,428 per year ($1,619 per month) for which teachers pay only $300 per year ($25 per month).
The Union’s salary proposal would cost the District $36,431 more in salary per teacher over 5 years, amounting to more than $6.9 million. The District’s salary proposal would cost the District $20,946 more in salary per teacher over 5 years, or $3.98 million. A more detailed breakdown of the proposals is posted on the District’s website, as part of its promise to provide timely, transparent facts to parents and taxpayers.
“Our focus is always about supporting our students and teachers. But we must balance that with the reality that declining enrollment, a flat tax base, and soaring health care and pension costs mean our taxpayers already pay the highest school tax rate in Beaver County,” said Angus.
The current millage rate in Ambridge is 75.86, the highest in Beaver County. Despite the significant drop in enrollment, the District has kept teacher staffing levels constant, resulting in the best student-teacher ratio in the county at 14:1. Yet school performance does not reflect this desirable learning environment. The Pennsylvania Department of Education ranks Ambridge High School third from last among the 13 schools in Beaver County.
“We understand that our teachers have one of the hardest and most important jobs in the world, and we believe the District compensates them fairly and competitively,” saidAngus. “We simply cannot afford the unreasonably high salary increases the Union demands. Most peer districts in Western Pennsylvania have frozen salaries this year or, at best, offered very modest increases.”
In addition, health care expenses continue to increase, and cost the District $2.8 million for teachers alone in 2016-17 – a noteworthy line item in the $46 million operating budget.
“We value our teachers tremendously, and we value student learning,” Angus said. “We are extremely disappointed that the Union leadership has refused to come to its senses regarding irresponsible financial demands.”
Facts About Ambridge Area School District
- The average Ambridge Area School District teacher has a salary of $58,741, plus benefits.
- Family health insurance costs the District $19,428 per year ($1,619 per month) for which teachers pay only $300 per year ($25 per month). Single coverage costs the District $7,116 ($593 per month).
- The Union’s salary proposal costs $36,431 per teacher over 5 years. The District’s salary proposal costs $20,946 per teacher over 5 years.
- There are approximately 190 teachers employed by Ambridge School District.
- The Union’s proposal would cost the District over $6.9 Million in additional salary over 5 years.
- The District’s proposal would cost $3.98 Million in additional salary over 5 years.
- At 75.86, Ambridge Area School District taxpayers pay the highest millage rate in Beaver County.
- Since 2015, the tax base has grown less than 1%.
- The millage rate has increased by nearly 20 percent since 2010, to cope with flat assessed property valuations.
- The District has a $46 million operating budget.
- Revenue shortfalls in 2015-16 school year were well over $1 million, in part because of increased enrollment in charter schools. The number of District students enrolled in cyber or charter schools has tripled since 2009-10.
- The District has not furloughed teachers even though enrollment continues to drop. Under their current contract, teachers got some of the largest raises in Beaver County.
- Regarding teacher performance, the Pennsylvania Department of Education ranks Ambridge High School third from last among the 13 schools in the County.
Go to http://www.ambridge.k12.pa.us/index.php/fact-center to see full statement