By Oren Lieberman
LANGHORNE, Pa (CBS) — The dark windows at Maple Point Middle school in Langhorne are normal for the weekend, but they will be that way to start the week after the teachers declared a strike on Friday.
“We have no been given no other choice,” said Louise Boyd, the president of the Neshaminy Federation of Teachers, the union that represents 654 teachers. “I’d much prefer being in my classroom to being out on the picket line.”
After 38 negotiating sessions, the teachers’ union and the board were unable to come to an agreement, so the teachers had boxes of hand warmers and strike signs ready to go for Monday morning. They are expected to picket outside of district schools.
“They have no willingness whatsoever to be creative and collaborative and find an end to this,” Boyd said of the Neshaminy School Board.
But the board says the teachers refuse to come down from their demands that are too costly for the district and the taxpayers.
“The key to settling this impasse is not to put our children’s education at stake, but to understand the economic times in which we live,” said Board President Ritchie Webb.
“This is teachers holding children hostage to extort more money,” said Larry Pastor, who lives in the district and has been fighting the teachers’ union for years.
Pastor says the last union contract bankrupted the school district and forced schools to cancel programs.
“What we have here is the highest paid teachers in the state and mediocre performing schools,” said Pastor.
For the district, the teacher’s contract is a financial issue that affects students. But to parents like Stephen Pirritano, who has two kids in the district, it is all about the students.
“When it gets to the point where it’s the union or the education of our children, we’re going to stand behind the education for our children,” said Pirritano.
Both sides say they are ready to negotiate and blame the other for the breakdown in communication. Meanwhile, parents say the real cost will be to students’ education.