In a tense public meeting that included some brief fireworks, the Tredyffrin-Easttown School Board voted for a second time Monday night to reject a state fact finder's report that would have settled the district's teacher contract if approved.
Lamenting that the district is facing the same tough economic times that teachers and taxpayers are grappling with, T/E School Board President Karen Cruikshank and six other board members voted to reject state-appointed Fact Finder Timothy J. Brown's proposal for a two year contract. Board member Anne Crowley, one of two board members who voted to accept the report when the board voted on the report back on August 9, abstained from voting yes or no as a "protest" vote.
The board's vote sends the contract talks back to the negotiating table. Had the report been approved in its entirity Brown's proposal would have become the conditions of a new, settled contract.
At the root of the board's "no" vote is the cost of the fact finder's report. Brown's report would have slightly reduced a projected district budget deficit, but not enough to satisfy board members.
Under the fact finder's report district number crunchers say the projected deficit would be slightly reduced in the short term but would still be over $13.3million in the 2015-2016 school year. The fact finder's report would have also given teachers a bonus in the second year while the district's proposal holds teacher salaries flat.
The fact finder's report called on the school district to raise more money to pay for teacher salaries, bonuses and health benefits.
Cruikshank summed up the dilema facing board members saying "we can't tax our way out of these deficits."
"I wish I had good news," Cruikshank told the public and teachers who filled the board room at the District Administrative Audiences.
Tredyffrin Easttown Education Association President Laura Whittaker says the union is "diappointed" in the vote. The TEAA had previously voted to accept the fact finder's report. The contract talks now go back to the bargaining table.