Souderton Area Teachers on Strike
Teachers in the Souderton Area School District in southeastern Pennsylvania have been on the picket line since September 2, standing up for their right to fair compensation. The strike could last until Sept. 23, the date necessary to ensure 180 days of school by June 15.
The 512-member Souderton Area Education Association (SAEA) walked out after talks on Labor Day yielded no progress.
Souderton teachers have the lowest starting salary in Montgomery County. Souderton teachers are the lowest paid in the county for their first 14 years of employment. SAEA is committed to improving that situation.
In addition, Souderton teachers’ health plan is not equal to other districts in the area. The plan is self-insured, which means that the district does not have to offer state-mandated coverage, such as mental health parity that private carriers must offer. The current plan has a $1 million lifetime maximum, while large private carriers have no such maximum, which could be wiped out by one catastrophic illness.
SAEA President Bill Lukridge has taught in Souderton for 36 years. He said the strike is especially for younger teachers. The district has already had less experienced teachers leave for large salary increases in surrounding districts.
“The board says it can’t afford to pay what is necessary to bring up our lower-salaried teachers,” said Lukridge. “Yet they have a $17 million surplus, or about $10 million more than what the state requires them to carry.”
Lukridge also rebuts the district’s claim of inability to pay by pointing out that by the district’s own figures, Souderton teachers should be 16th in the county in salary. But for the first 14 years, they are 22nd out of 22.
A bargaining session on Sept. 5 lasted only an hour, when the board refused to discuss what was already on the table and instead wanted to negotiate what would happen after the strike. The mediator, realizing that no negotiations would occur, ended the session and scheduled no further talks. As of Tuesday, Sept. 9, no new talks were scheduled.
The Souderton Education Association has two websites with information about the current strike:
PSEA will continue to post updates as they occur.
Photo credit: Paul Gottlieb