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Ringgold Education Association

"F---ing school teachers need to get real jobs"

Teachers in Ringgold PA return for their third week on the picket line after gun-nut parent threatens to shoot them while they walked the picket line

Brian Young's picture
Nov 13, 2017

About 200 teachers in a school district outside of Pittsburgh are walking the picket line for the third straight week after the district failed to reach a tentative agreement with the union.About 200 teachers in a school district outside of Pittsburgh are walking the picket line for the third straight week after the district failed to reach a tentative agreement with the union.

The teachers, who have been on strike since October 18th, have been working without a contract since July. They decided to go on strike after negotiations with the district stalled. The Ringgold Education Association (REA) says that thanks to givebacks in previous contracts, teachers within the Ringgold school district make significantly less than their counterparts in the surrounding communities. Teachers in the district average just $48,989 a year, a 6% decrease from 2004. A recent report by BizJournal ranked Ringgold as having the lowest salaries of the 105 school districts in the Pittsburgh region.

Even with it being the lowest paid in the region, the district insisted on more givebacks. The union claims that instead of offering the teachers the compensation that they deserve, the district has spent it on new construction and giving raises to safety officers while pocketing the rest. Money has also been spent on drones, ATV’s, new vehicles and unrequested/unused supplies. REA says that the district currently has a surplus of nearly $10 million dollars of taxpayer money that they refuse to spend.

“During my career, I’ve seen some really good teachers leave and go elsewhere simply because of their low paycheck. Because they can’t afford to live on their Ringgold salary” REA President Maria Degnan said. “We don’t appear to have funding issues in other areas, just when it comes to funding a teacher’s contract. If the result is we get a good contract for the next five years that allows us to retain quality educators, the kids will actually benefit.”

With teachers on the picket line for three weeks and the school closed for the same amount of time, the strike has become contentious. One parent in the school was arrested after he posted terroristic threats towards the teachers and threatened to come to the picket line and shoot teachers who were protesting in an effort to break the strike. He wrote on Facebook "guns don't kill people, I kill people," authorities say. The parent, George Shallenberger, also wrote "shoot them and start over," “Happiness is a warm gun," and "f---ing school teachers need to get real jobs. Damn snowflakes." Shallenberger was arrested on Thursday and charged with two counts of making terroristic threats.

With negotiations stalled, the district may be trying to wait the union out. The Pennsylvania Department of Education has already ordered teachers back to work on November 21st, even if they don’t have a contract. Instead, both sides would be forced into non-binding arbitration. The teachers would be unable to strike again until the arbitration is over.

While strikes among teachers are pretty rare since states like New York have outlawed them, a strike of this length is also exceedingly rare. The strike is already at 26 days and could continue on for another week.

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