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State College School District Begins Contract Talks With Teachers Union

by on March 02, 2015 6:00 AM

The State College Area School District has begun negotiations with the State College Area Education Association, kicking off a process that impacts everyone from teachers to taxpayers.

Eugene Ruocchio, a high school science teacher and president of the education association, says the negotiations are still in a very early stage. How long the negotiations may last and what items will be debated are still being determined.

“Certainly [issues like benefits, pensions and salaries] are major issues statewide, but any issue could be negotiated and anything could be agreed upon,” Ruocchio says. “I’m not sure what issues are going to be discussed, but we’re working with the school board in a very collaborative way.”

Contracts between the association and the district cover a wide range of issues, including everything from salary and healthcare to sick days and travel reimbursement. The teachers will work under the terms of the current contract (which expires in June) until a new one is agreed upon.

“Our shared goal of educating students will guide this negotiation,” Rucchio and school board president Amber Concepcion say in an official joint statement.

For more than a decade, a number of costs associated with salaries and benefits have been on the rise.

SCASD Business Administrator Randy Brown has previously told StateCollege.com that the district is being hit hard by the statewide pension crises, which has contributed to a proposed tax increases in the 2015 budget. He says the amount that the district pays into an individuals teacher’s pension plan has increased from five percent in 2011 to 20 percent in the current year.

According to past contracts between the district and education association (provided to StateCollege.com by the school district), everything from salaries to health insurances costs have also been on the rise.

Between 2001 and 2006, co-payments for health insurance stayed constant at $10. Starting in the 2006-07 school year, co-pays jumped to $35 and steadily increased to $55 by 2011.

In the 2001-02 school year, a teacher’s annual salary could range from about $31,000 to $63,000, depending on a teacher's number of years with the district and level of higher education. By the time that contract expired in 2006, a teacher’s salary could range from about $34,000 to over $72,000.

At the start of the 2006 to 2011 contact, a teacher’s salary could range from about $35,000 to $76,000. When that contract expired, salary ranges were set anywhere from about $42,000 to over $84,000.

These increasing figures have contributed to a steadily increasing cost of instruction within the district.

According to data available through the Pennsylvania Department of Education, SCASD spent just under $54 million on instruction-related costs in 2005-06. By 2012-13, that number had increased by over 23 percent to more than $66 million.

Other school districts in the area have seen similar increases.

The Bellefonte Area School District’s instruction costs increased by over 22 percent between 2005 and 2013, jumping from nearly $19 million to over $23 million. Bald Eagle Area School District’s instruction costs saw a nearly 15 percent increase from about $12 to $14 million. Penn’s Valley Area School District underwent a 17 percent increase in instruction costs, from $10 million to more than $12 million.

The proposed 2015-16 SCASD budget anticipates over $136 million in revenue, and over $135 million in expenditures. However, this budget is also the first to include taxes and costs associated with extensive renovations to the high school.

 

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Michael Martin Garrett is a reporter and editor for StateCollege.com who covers local government, the courts, the arts and writes the Keeping the Faith column. He's a Penn State alumnus, a published poet and the bassist in a local indie rock band.
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