Parents strike back against Bethel Park teachers
Bethel Park parents angered by the ongoing teachers strike staged protests to counter the picketing teachers and plan to be there today when negotiations resume.
Organizing primarily through Facebook group pages such as “Bethel Park School District End This Strike,” parents and students stood Wednesday evening and Thursday morning on the corner opposite striking teachers, with homemade signs reading, “Why do you feel entitled?” and “Last week you taught me math; this week you taught me greed.”
“We feel (the teachers) should be back to work,” said Chris Kozlowski, 37, who joined the counterprotesters yesterday with her two children. “We’re not against their right to protest; they have every right to protest. But our kids have a right to an education.”
Her daughter Ayla, a seventh-grader at Independence Middle School, said the novelty of having time off is wearing thin because she baby-sits brother Derreck, a fifth-grader at Neil Armstrong Middle School.
“We haven’t had anything to do besides the homework they assigned us the last day,” Ayla said. “We’re losing our smarts. … If you don’t do stuff for a while, you forget it.”
Parents said they planned to arrive at 9 a.m. today, before bargaining teams from the Bethel Park Federation of Teachers and the school district. The negotiations Oct. 29 broke down after less than an hour.
“Based on what the school district told us the last time and what they’ve said in the media, we’re prepared for a long bargaining process,” said Walt Michalski, representative of the American Federation of Teachers, Pennsylvania. “That said, we’re prepared to settle. … We’re prepared for whatever it takes to get this settled.”
The administration and the Bethel Park Federation of Teachers have said their disagreements hinge on frequency of pay raises, class sizes, the length of the work day and year, and teachers’ contributions toward health insurance.
If the strike does not end before Dec. 5, the state will require the teachers to go back to classrooms, and both sides will enter mandated, best-offer arbitration to ensure students get 180 days of instructional time before June 15.
Classes for seniors will resume Monday, taught by school administrators, so the class of 2011 can keep its June 4 graduation date.