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Scranton Teacher Strike Ends After Two Weeks of Stalemate

Guest post by Ross Brenneman

After shuttering schools for two weeks, the teachers' strike in Scranton, Pa., has come to an end.

After a vote held Tuesday afternoon, the Scranton Federation of Teachers ratified a new contract; students will return to class Wednesday. The agreement is slated to last two years.

What the union won: In the first year, teachers will see an average 2.7 percent salary increase, based on years of service; they will get a 1 percent raise in the second year, per the Scranton Times-Tribune. Paraprofessionals, who also went on strike, will receive a similar raise, plus a small bonus to help offset a raise in health insurance payments. And the district backed off its proposal for a longer school day or unpaid professional development time.

What the district won: Health insurance deductibles will increase to $500; they are currently between $200-400, according to the Times-Tribune. And while raises will be retroactive to Sept. 1, when the previous contract expired, teachers won't be paid as such until January, after the state will have (presumably) passed a budget. 

The median salary for Scranton teachers had been $52,500, per local news station WNEP; that's the lowest in the surrounding area. Even teachers who see the greatest increase in deductible payments will see a net increase in annual salary of at least a few hundred dollars.

The past two weeks have brought posturing from all sides. In a memo posted online at the end of the first week, union president Rosemary Boland chastised the district's inaction: "The SFT did not want a strike. The SFT has never wanted a strike. It is the Scranton School District that forced a strike by thinking the professional and paraprofessional staff are suckers."

In an interview last week with WNEP, superintendent Alexis Kirijan said the district was at the end of its leash: "From a financial standpoint I believe the district board of directors have stretched themselves beyond what is even comfortable. The district really is broke."

Board president Cy Douaihy told the Times-Tribune on Tuesday that he was glad students would be going back to school. "I felt that this should have never happened. All we had asked for from the union was patience. We just don't have a state budget and we felt like we were really operating in the dark, but I'm glad we're able to piece something together," he said.

The state education department had given both sides until Oct. 27 to reach an accord.

More union activity:

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