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Policy: Labor

East Allegheny, Pa., teachers become second to strike

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News,Business,Education,Labor unions,Labor,Pennsylvania

MCKEESPORT, Pa. (AP) — Teachers in a small western Pennsylvania school district went on strike Tuesday, making their union local the second to walk off the job as the new school year begins, while contract talks continue in scores of other districts.

Negotiations between the East Allegheny School Board and the union representing its 133 teachers collapsed Friday night. The district has 1,700 students.

"The board, in my opinion, worked as hard as it could . so the kids didn't get caught in the crossfire," Michael Palombo, an attorney representing the district, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Cheryl Ihnat, president of the East Allegheny Education Association, declined the board's invitation to continue talks Monday.

"Once again, we feel they're bargaining in bad faith, putting out erroneous information and really hoodwinking the community into thinking we're the bad guys again," she told the newspaper.

Teachers in Millville School District in northeastern Pennsylvania went on strike last month.

The Pennsylvania State Education Association, the state's largest teacher union, said teachers in more than 150 other school districts are working without current contracts while negotiations continue. Contracts at about 20 of those districts expired two or more years ago, the union said.

But Steve Robinson of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association said only about 130 contracts are still unresolved.

The American Federation of Teachers represents a smaller number of locals, including those that bargain for teachers in the state's two largest cities. Philadelphia teachers are working under a contract that expired in 2012, but most of the AFT locals representing public-school teachers have reached new agreements, said union spokeswoman Barbara Goodman.

By law, all Pennsylvania public-school students must receive 180 days of instruction by June 30 of each school year. The state education secretary may seek a court order requiring striking teachers to return to work if the walkout would interfere with that requirement.

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