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The New CBA That Wasn't: Fact Finder's PASD Recommendations Released

Both the Phoenixville Area School District and its teachers union rejected the deal. Here's what was in it.

The recommendations that an independent mediator made to resolve the ongoing Collective Bargaining Agreement dispute between Phoenixville Area School District and its teachers union, the Phoenixville Area Education Association, were released to the public on November 2.

Both the school board and the union voted to reject the plan, which would have gone into effect had both parties agreed to it in full.

(The full PDF of the fact finder's recommendations is attached to this article.)

The fact finder made recommendations in six areas of dispute between the camps: workday, salary, coaches/extra duty pay, retirement and severance pay, long term substitutes, and health care.

With respect to the workday terms, the school district wants to alter the current schedule to a “compacted” one that allows for greater sharing of resources between the high school and the middle school. The school district also proposes to set aside a 25-minute block of time each day for team, departmental, and grade level activities. The district also wants to reimburse secondary school teachers $22 an hour for lost prep time and elementary school teachers 55 cents a minute.

The teachers union accepted this framework, but on the conditions that the free block each day is 30-minutes long plus an additional 20-minutes of pre- or post-time in the secondary schools, that there are an a maximum of three “preps” if additional classes are added to the schedule, and that the lost prep rate be upped to $25 an hour and 60 cents per minute.

On this point, the fact finder advised the teachers get a 30-minute bock for meetings with ten minutes of pre- and post-time for the secondary teachers, told the groups to drop the “prep” language from the CBA unless both parties could agree on a number, and said they should maintain the status quo for missed prep time compensation.

The second issue of contention was teacher salary. While both parties had previously agreed to a salary hike freeze in 2010-11, a $1,200 bonus for 2011-12, and an $800 bonus in 2012-13, they are in disagreement about raises from there. For 2012-13, the school district proposes a half-step increase in January, while the union wants one in January and August. For 2013-14, the union again wants half-step increases in August and January with an additional one percent increase. The school district has offered a single half-step increase and a 0.6 percent raise from the 2009-2010 year. An additional area of disagreement is the distribution of this pool: the union wants each member to collect equally, while the school district wants teachers in the middle portion of the salary scale to get more—as their pay is, relative to the distribution schemes of other districts, lower than that of their PASD colleagues.

The fact finder advised that all teachers get the scheduled $800 bonus this year, that their 2013-14 salary is increased by one percent relative to 2009-10, that the pool of new money is divided evenly among the members, and that half-step increases go into effect in January of 2013, August of 2014, and January of 2014.

The school district, citing studies that suggest there is an insignificant relationship between teacher education and student performance, also wanted to remove several pay scale columns that incentivize PASD teachers to get advanced degrees. The union opposed this, and the fact finder side with them. In a related issue, the school district wants language in the new CBA that limits the frequency with which particularly studious teachers can earn degrees and jump salary levels. The union opposed this change and, again, the fact finder sided with them.

The third issue discussed was coaches’ pay. Both the school district and the union have agreed to form a committee to reevaluate pay for each sport and activity, but while the association wants no coach to take a pay cut for the sport or activity they currently oversee, the school district will only agree to maintain the status quo through 2013-14.

The fact finder asserted that evaluating all this would take months, diverting attention from more integral issues. She advised both parties form the committee, but maintain the current payment scheme for this contract term.

Issue four was severance pay and retirement. The union wants each member with 30 years of service and 20 in PASD to get a stipend of $17,500, while the school district wants to contribute $20,000, but only for employees who retire by June of 2014. The union opposes this sunset date. The fact finder sided with the union.

With respect to severance pay, teachers currently get a lump sum payment of $110 per year of service if they retire with ten or more years of service. The school district wants to eliminate this benefit. The fact finder sided with the teachers.

Sick pay is also a sticking point between the two camps. The school district wants to cap it at $50 a day for 50 days, while the union wants no cap—the terms of the present contract. The fact finder sided, again, with the union.

The fifth issue the fact finder weighed in on was long-term substitutes. At present, a substitute teacher becomes a “long-term substitute” after 30 days. The union wants to shorten this period to 20 days while the school district wants it increased to 45. The fact finder recommended that the period remain unchanged.

The final issue the fact finder ruled on was health care. The union wants its members to contribute five percent to the cost of the health plan with no deductible. The school district wants members to pay seven percent with a $1,000 deductible in 2012-13, a $1,500 deductible in 2013-14, and a $750 health savings account. The fact finder said there should be no deductible or health savings plan, and that the union’s members should contribute five percent of the premium cost in 2012-13 and six percent in 2013-14.

Spousal coverage was another aspect of the decision. The school district wants to mandate that its teachers’ spouses who have other coverage take that coverage and leave the PASD plan. The union opposes this, and the fact finder sided with them.

Prescription coverage was the third component of the health care decision. The school district wants generic drugs to be mandatory while the union wants options. The fact finder split the difference here. She advised that the CBA would mandate the cheaper generics where possible, but would give physicians latitude to write “brand necessary” prescriptions if they feel a patient needs them.

The report can be downloaded in full here.

See additional coverage of the CBA talks below:

  • Mediator in Teachers' Contract Dispute Could Be Appointed Soon
  • Update: Fact-Finder Appointed in Teacher's CBA Dispute
  • Phoenixville School Board Rejects Fact-Finders' CBA Recommendation
FEDERAL November 05, 2012 at 02:47 PM
harry finster November 05, 2012 at 04:16 PM
glorified baby sitters
John C November 05, 2012 at 04:29 PM
How long can they go without pay?
Gilligan November 05, 2012 at 04:48 PM
John C. They are getting paid. In the top range for Chester County teachers. Plus they're only paying $45/month for a Cadillac insurance policy that costs taxpayers about $3000/month.
Chris November 05, 2012 at 05:27 PM
@Federal....The PASD has given them a more than fair deal on many fronts. They are very well paid and what they pay for benefits is a joke (far less than the national average). Not sure how you can blame the PASD. You should be blaming the union leadership for continuing to reject fair deals.
Wendy Wassmer November 05, 2012 at 07:00 PM
I think both parties are to blame, the recommendations seemed fair in all honesty. I don't want to see a strike but they need to get to task and get this CBA done with already.
Ike November 05, 2012 at 09:47 PM
I remember when most had great benefits .Top health ins. When Unions ruled . Now they say that the job market is growing when the 8$hr/9$ are what there for the young . To have Cadillac ins. you have to be on welfare , than you have great insurance.. Just ask Dick H.


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