No winners in a teachers' strike
Sometimes it is beyond the ability of lawmakers to resolve major problems. But it is bewildering when lawmakers have the ability to effect positive change yet flatly refuse to do so.
One such example is the refusal of Pennsylvania's state legislature and the governor's office, which philosophically claim to champion local control of school districts, to wrest those very districts from hostage situations.
Even though other states such as New York and New Jersey have outlawed public school strikes, Pennsylvania still allows them. One is scheduled next week in the Old Forge School District.
It's even more ridiculous because the strikes don't actually resolve anything. Because state law requires 180 days of school, school board members can stone-wall and posture for political gain and teachers can strike with impunity. Districts are open for 180 days and teachers are paid for 180 days. Unlike in the private sector, nobody directly involved pays a price when teachers strike.
That price is paid by families whose lives are disrupted for what amounts to street theater.
Many other states, including many with strong statewide teachers unions, offer models of how to ban teachers' strikes while achieving fair settlements. One way Pennsylvania could do it is by adopting a system of last-best-offer arbitration, which would create huge risks for either side for intransigence, thus forcing those sides toward the middle, and a settlement.
Lawmakers also should work on the issues underlying most strikes, especially a statewide health care plan for teachers that would get that issue off the table in local negotiations.
When legislators return from their own extremely long summer vacation, they should work on ensuring that summer vacations for teachers end as advertised, by banning strikes in favor of orderly, fair settlements.