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Teachers' Strike Begins In East Allegheny

NORTH VERSAILLES (KDKA) - Teachers in the East Allegheny School District walked the picket lines Tuesday morning instead of greeting students for the first day of classes.

The main arguing points are a pay freeze wanted by the district and a plan that includes monthly contributions for health care.

"It's upsetting. You don't get to start school and be with your friends, but it's what they have to do and that's what's going to happen," eighth grade student Paige Yusko said.

Tuesday morning, East Allegheny Education Association President Cheryl Ihnat e-mailed the district's superintendent a copy of a new proposal.

"No one wants to be out on strike. We would like to be back in the classroom too, but we are coming into our third year without a contract and it's important," Ihnat said.

Now, it's a waiting game from the school board. The conflict is over a number of issues, including teachers' salaries.

Ihnat says the board should have been prepared for salary increases, which are part of an existing 16-step pay scale.

"We offered basically a five-year contract that would split the difference, which would accept a full two-year freeze, which would be from 2012 to 2013 and 2013 to 2014. And then this year, coming in we would move one step halfway through the school year," Ihnat said. "So, that would get us where we are. It's like a two-and-a-half-year total freeze and then, we would move one step halfway through the school year."

Information on the district's website from the 2013-14 school year show that a teacher with 16 or more years of service averages $93,866 a year in salary.

"Here in East Allegheny alone since Gov. Corbett has been in office, they've lost $1 million in state funding," Pennsylvania State Education Association President Mike Crossey said. "That state funding needs to be made up somewhere. It either comes from the state or property tax owners."

A total of 133 teachers are now on strike and by law, they can strike up to 16 days, if an agreement isn't made before then.

Michael Palombo, the attorney representing East Allegheny School District, could not be reached for comment.

East Allegheny serves 1,700 students in East McKeesport, North Versailles, Wilmerding and Wall.

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