A compromise bill aimed at tempering teachers’ strikes in Pennsylvania has been waylaid by the inclusion of several controversial but essentially unrelated provisions.
A legislative conference committee was expected to resume negotiations this week on the bill, which regulates the timeline and procedures for collective bargaining, bans selective strikes, and requires unions to give 48-hour strike notice.
Meanwhile, several provisions have been added that could cost the support of the school boards’ association and teachers’ unions.
“The bill now has become an omnibus bill,” said John R. FitzPatrick, the legislative director of the Pennsylvania Federation of Teachers.
The controversy over the nongermane amendments apparently led the six-member conference panel to postpone talks last week.
Both the Pennsylvania School Boards Association and the Pennsylvania State Education Association are generally supportive of the core provisions of the bill.
The P.F.T. accepts most of the provisions up until the end of the negotiating process, when a school board would have the power to reject an arbitration determination.
Education lobbyists and lawmakers have been working for eight months to address the issue of strikes in the state that routinely leads the nation in teacher walkouts each year. (See Education Week, Oct. 30, 1991.)
Tax Impact Feared
But it is the other issues that have been tacked on in recent weeks that have frustrated backers of the bill.
One would extend collective-bargaining rights to Philadelphia school administrators, while the other would give local school boards the option of exempting senior citizens from property taxes.
The school-boards association is particularly frustrated by what it sees as an attempt by the administrators’ union to take advantage of the situation by adding the collective- bargaining provision.
‘“To me, this is the legislative process at its worst,” said ‘Tom Gentzel, the P.S.B.A.'S assistant executive director. “Frankly, that makes a mockery of all the work we have done.”
Lobbyists also expressed concern that the tax provision would put local boards under political pressure to grant an exemption that could be extremely costly to the schools.
“You can give school boards the option, but how many will have the courage to say no?” asked Donald F. Morabito, the chief lobbyist for the P.S.E.A.
Gov. Robert P. Casey has indicated he will veto the bill if it contains either provision.
The legislation also contains a less controversial provision to allow students to be excused from dissecting animals in biology class.
A version of this article appeared in the June 17, 1992 edition of Education Week as Pa. Bill To Discourage Strikes Hits Snag