The membership of the Northeast Bradford Education Association (NEBEA), a local organization of the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) and the National Education Association (NEA), voted Tuesday to ratify its agreement to freeze all bargaining unit member salaries for the upcoming 2011-2012 school year.

Also on Tuesday, the Northeast Bradford School Board voted unanimously at a special meeting to accept the salary freeze.

The agreement will extend the existing collective bargaining agreement between the NEBEA and the Northeast Bradford School District until June 30, 2012.

According to information provided by NEBEA chief negotiator Wendy Carr, the agreement follows the March 16 recommendation by PSEA President Jim Testerman, calling on all local PSEA associations to explore a salary/wage freeze and other cost saving measures with their respective school districts for the 2011-2012 school year. Testerman took the step following Governor Tom Corbett's cuts to public education, higher education, and community colleges. Governor Corbett has cut over $1 billion from public schools. The cuts to Bradford County public schools total over $8 million, with over $800,000 being cut at Northeast Bradford, Carr reported.

The concession by the NEBEA will result in the protection of current education programs and professional staffing levels, as it includes a provision precluding furloughs for the life of the contract, according to Carr.

"Our members have done our part," Carr said. "We have taken the wage freeze called for by Governor Corbett. The governor and the Legislature must now do theirs. Instead of balancing the budget on the backs of local property tax payers, school districts, educators, support staff, and, most importantly, our students, the governor must look for other options. If you are a parent of a student in Bradford County, our state system of higher education or a Pennsylvania community college, or are a taxpayer concerned about shifting the tax burden back to the individual property tax payers, please contact your local legislator and register your concerns."

NEBEA co-presidents Sue Middaugh and Wendy Carrington added this statement: "We needed to do our part to maintain our programs and staffing at the Northeast Bradford School District. We know that although the district is managed very well, a 14 percent cut to the state portion of a budget the size of our small district is astounding. We are used to doing more with less in our schools, but this is an extraordinary situation."

The NEBEA-NEBSD collective bargaining agreement was set to expire on June 30, 2011. The parties have been bargaining since late 2010.

"I'm very proud to be associated with our teachers," said District Superintendent Heather McPherson after the board voted to accept the salary freeze. She said the leadership demonstrated by the NEBEA shows that they want to do what is best for the students.

"I'm very, very proud that the teachers were willing to do this," said School Board President Ed O'Connor, following the meeting.

Some information from this article was provided by the Northeast Bradford Education Association.