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Scranton teachers walk picket lines

There are no teachers or students inside Scranton School District buildings. Educators are on strike.

SCRANTON, Pa. — After working years without a contract or pay raise, teachers in one of the area's largest school districts hit the picket line.

Hundreds of Scranton School District teachers and paraprofessionals went out on strike Wednesday.

Teachers have been without a contract since 2017, and those Newswatch 16 spoke to say enough is enough.

"We want a fair contract. We want a good health care program. We haven't had raises in five years, and we deserve a raise," said Sandy Marino, a Scranton first grade teacher.

Teachers in the school district have been working without a contract and without raises since 2017. The school board wants to fund raises with savings from a new healthcare plan but the union won't agree to that.

"We've tried every way we can to come to an agreement with the district. We've more than met them halfway with their proposals, and after five years, this is necessary. Scranton is a town that was built on the backs of union workers and we are standing up for our rights," said Matthew Loftus, Scranton Federation of Teachers. 

There's also a conflict with the plan for health care in the budget, although right now, health care has been stripped from these employees while the strike goes on, a first in the district's history.

"I would say it was one of the meanest things I've ever seen anyone do. I know Mr. Audi represents Lake Lehman. They didn't cut it, Abington didn't cut it, Old Forge didn't cut it," said Rosemary Boland, president of the Scranton Federation of Teachers.

Between no pay raises in years and cuts to programs in the past, Boland says the problems keep piling up.

"Good kids are in our schools, kids who want to learn. Their parents want them there, their parents put their kids there, and they entrust their kids to us. This district has caused chaos. The administration has to take responsibility for their actions and correct their actions to protect the health, safety, and wellness of every child in our school. It's outrageous, just outrageous."

Boland hopes the teacher's union and the district can get back to negotiations sometime this week, but no date or time has been set.

While the strike continues, the school district's cafeteria contractor Aramark is providing boxed breakfast and lunch for families.

The Scranton JCC put together a program for kids who need daycare while out of class.

Carli Kalinoski says it's similar to a program the JCC ran while Scranton students were out of class because of the pandemic last school year.

"It's kind of like all the fun parts of the school day without the learning," Kalinoski said. "this is a little worse, though, because you really have no idea how long we're going to be doing it. We kind of just had to, today, just really roll with the punches."

That's what families will have to do while the strike continues.

Newswatch 16 spoke with Ro Hume, a member of the school board member who is a member of the negotiating team. She said that there aren't any new negotiations planned.

Hume also said that the new healthcare plan that the board is proposing would save the district more than $3 million dollars a year and would be able to fund raises for teachers but not retroactive pay for the past five years of raises. That, she said, is not financially sustainable.

Teachers will stay on the picket line until 3 p.m. Wednesday and return Thursday morning.

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