Pennsylvania leads nation in teacher strikes, but statewide strike unlikely electricity bill calculator

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Eight of those strikes happened in school districts in Montgomery County, and the most missed days statewide in any given year — 148 in 2005 — occurred the same year teachers in the Pottsgrove School District struck for 10 days, according to the data.

Benfield, who recently delivered testimony on teacher strikes before the Senate Education Committee, said “Pennsylvania is ground zero for strikes because we are one of only 12 states that explicitly legalize them, and — unlike most states — there is no penalty for striking.”

“The number of districts and where they get funding are major factors in statewide teacher strikes. For example, Oklahoma’s legislature sets teachers’ salaries,” wrote Commonwealth Foundation Policy Analyst and researcher Jessica Barnett in repose to a query from Digital First Media.

“In contrast, while Pennsylvania does have a statewide minimum teacher salary, the local school board and union have much more control. As a result, a joint strike in 500 school districts just isn’t productive in Pennsylvania,” Barnett wrote.

Additionally, there are several differences between the high number of district-level strikes in Pennsylvania and the “unprecedented number” of statewide actions occurring in recent months in West Virginia, Arizona, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and most recently, Colorado, said Michael Hansen.

“Every state was hit by the great recession, and most every school district felt the pain in those recession years with cuts to education funding, but they operated under the presumption that when the economy recovered, they would be made whole again,” Hansen told Digital First Media.

“Despite the complexity of predicting where the next strike might occur, the multi-state teacher actions have certainly prompted discussions in other schools beyond their border. In recent days, rumors of gathering calls for action have been reported in Indiana and Texas,” Hansen wrote. “Further teacher action in North Carolina seems almost inevitable, with a call for a march on the state Capitol set for a date next month.”

Research has shown, “weak teacher workforces often disproportionately harm disadvantaged student groups,” Hansen wrote. Research has shown those groups already face more and steeper obstacles to academic achievement than those in better-funded districts.

Pennsylvania is widely recognized as having one of the most unfair education funding systems in the United States that skews in favor of wealthy school districts. And although the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed a “fair-funding formula” two years ago, only new funding added to the budget is distributed fairly.

“Without remedying teacher pay and benefits, the quality of the teacher workforce and the pipeline leading to it will continue to suffer in not just those states that are striking, but in all states where teacher and educational conditions are weak,” according to Hansen.

So while Pennsylvania may be the teacher strike capital of the United States, and a statewide strike is unlikely, is does have some of the other factors that could weaken public education — and thus the workforce of the future — in coming years.