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Pa. Teacher Strike Ends After Five Weeks, But Union Could Strike Again in February

Teachers in the Dallas School District in Pennsylvania are back in the classroom after a five-week teacher strike—but they could strike again in February. 

Teachers from the Dallas Education Association started striking on Nov. 14, and returned to work on Dec. 19. They have been working under an expired collective bargaining agreement since August, and the district and the union have still not come to a deal, reports The Citizens' Voice

"We felt it was time to get the kids back in school," said Michael Cherinka, the president of the teachers' union, to the paper.

The union plans to strike again on Feb. 27 unless the district and the union can decide on a new agreement, or if there's "significant progress" in negotiations, the local newspaper reported. But the union and the district currently are at an impasse. 

Last week, a potential two-year deal that would have provided $500,000 in retroactive pay increases for the 2015-16 school year and $500,000 for this school year fell through, due to a disagreement over health care. The district wanted teachers to pay 4 percent of their health benefit premium, which the union rejected.

In Pennsylvania, teachers are allowed to strike two times a year, but the first strike must end as soon as it prevents a district from providing 180 days of instruction before June 15 or the last day of the scheduled school year, whichever comes first. The district's scheduled last day is June 6. 

The strike was supposed to end on Dec. 13 to accomodate that law, but a dispute over the school calendar delayed the first strike's end—the union claimed the district had extended the school year to June 26 since administrators told parents that make-up days would not be scheduled during the winter holiday break. 

Now, according to the Citizens' Voice, the district and the union are currently sparring over whether a nonbinding arbitration process is mandatory. State law says the arbitration becomes mandatory when the strike interferes with the end of the school year, but the union negotiator told the paper "we haven't hit the critical point" since the district extended the school year.

A second strike would have to end when it prevents the district from having 180 days of instruction by June 30, according to state law.

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