Last week the Downingtown Area Education Association announced a threat to strike as of Jan. 29 if they have not reached a contract agreement with the district.For parents and students in the district, this is anything but good news. The last thing students need is to lose class time because the DAEA and the district can't agree on a contract.

Sure, the students might enjoy the time off to start, but if a strike continues for an extended period of time, it will only cause more harm than good.

Each side has been pointing fingers as to why an agreement hasn't been struck.

Paul Gottlieb, the Pennsylvania State Education Association staff negotiator for the DAEA said,"As most members of this community are aware, DAEA has been in negotiations with the District for a year-tonight marks the one year anniversary of these negotiations. And despite the best efforts of our Negotiating Team, little progress has been made, few agreements have been reached and major hurdles remain to be overcome."

According to Gottlieb, the financial context for the negotiations is as follows:

"Last year the School District ran a $25 Million budget surplus and still raised school taxes 3.4 percent for this year. In addition, this District receives average annual revenue increases of approximately 5 percent just from normal growth in the community. Money flows into District coffers without even asking for it! And this year, the district is running way ahead of itself and is significantly under budget, once again. So there's no shortage of cash available to fully fund the education of Downingtown's children."

That is the DAEA's side of the argument and it is valid. The teachers want to be paid comparably to the other districts in the county. According to Gottlieb, the DASD teachers are 10th of 12 schools as far as pay goes in the county. If that is the case, this should be improved upon, especially given the district's economics and size.

The district, on the other hand, says: "Since the contract negotiations began a year ago, the Board's proposal has moved from a three year contract to the current four year proposal which includes salary increases of 4.0 percent, 4.5 percent, 4.2 percent, 4.2 percent. This four year proposal equates to a $21, 451, 360 increase in salaries, which reflects a $1, 119, 873 increase over the Board's previous proposal," they said in a statement last week.

The district also disputed Gottlieb's assertion that the most recent increases to its salary are "minimal".

"The Board considers an additional $1, 119, 873 salary increase more than minimal and the proposal was made in a good faith effort to settle the contract," the district said in the release. "In comparison, the DAEA's first salary proposal presented to the Board in April 2007, started with a five year contract with salary increases of 5.23 percent, 5.13 percent, 4.26 percent, 4.89 percent, and 4.4 percent. After one year of bargaining their salary proposal has actually increased by $578, 538. Their Nov. 27th five year proposal includes salary increases of 5.3 percent, 5.3 percent, 4.5 percent, 4.5 percent, and 4.5 percent."

Each side needs to come to a reasonable compromise for the sake of the students in the district.

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