Letter to the Editor: What does Keith Knauss really want?

In a recent Unionville Chadds-Ford Board meeting, Director Keith Knauss advocated for stalling the negotiations process so that the contract with UCF teachers expires and goes into status quo.

Watch the video of Mr. Knauss’s comments here.

By entering status quo, the teachers would not receive any salary increases thereby, in Mr. Knauss’s mind, save the district money.  At the same time, healthcare benefits would also not change and automatic cost increases will take effect July 1st, thereby neutralizing any salary savings to the district.

To date, negotiations have been unproductive between UCF teachers and the School Board and a major sticking point is the district’s demand that the teachers take a reduction in healthcare benefits — in fact switch to a whole new, punitive and inferior plan. The district says this plan is part of their “Guiding Principles.”

If the district’s position is that a change in healthcare is necessary to settle a new agreement, why is Mr. Knauss suggesting otherwise?  The district faces mandatory healthcare cost increases due to status quo that will eat up any savings due to a lack of salary increases.  How can the district demand healthcare benefit reductions if they are willing to let the contract expire and be hit with automatic increases July 1st?

So either the district’s demand to switch healthcare isn’t really all that important, or Mr. Knauss doesn’t want to provide the 323 hard-working and dedicated UCF teachers a fair raise?

Ultimately this is a School Board decision. The whole School Board will vote on a final agreement between the district and UCF Teachers. Does the School Board feel the same way as Mr. Knauss? Or does the School Board want to settle a contract that is fair to the teachers and recognizes all the work they do to make the district one of Pennsylvania’s best.

Scott Broomall
UCFEA President

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7 Responses to “Letter to the Editor: What does Keith Knauss really want?”

  1. Keith Knauss says:

    The union leadership will do everything in their power to divert attention away from the real issue – MONEY. The Education Association (union) is asking for 4.6% compensation increases each year for 3 years; the school board is offering 2.1%. My neighbors are not seeing 4%+ increases and if the standard indices are any indication neither are most of our residents. The Act 1 Index is 1.9%; the social security COLA is 1.7%; the Employer Cost index for elementary and secondary school employees is 2.0% and the CPI is actually slight negative at -0.1%. We’re living in a 2% world and asking for 4.6% increases is unacceptable.

    I’m hearing from my neighbors. Some are living on fixed pensions that don’t increase year to year. Some rely heavily on social security that had a COLA of 1.7%. I speak to parents of young children. They are not getting 4% compensation increases and are concerned with making their mortgage payments and saving for college. I speak with parents whose children have already been through the school system. They are not getting big compensation increases and are worried about having enough saved for retirement. One thing they all have in common is that they strongly support the district’s educational mission and understand the need for yearly real estate tax increases to compensate for inflation. But when I mention 4.6% increases they are universally opposed. 2.1% is OK; 4.6% is not.

    I’d be remiss is I didn’t address the two diversionary smoke screens.
    1) Contrary to Mr. Broomall’s assertion, the district does save money when teachers enter status quo. I mentioned this fact during a budget hearing as one possible factor that could cause below budget expenditures. I’m uncertain how anyone can misconstrue this statement as advocating for “stalling the negotiations process”.
    2) The school board’s proposed benefit changes are not “Punitive”. They reflect the norm for both private industry within our region and public schools outside of Chester County and the Philadelphia region

    • Bailey D says:

      Mr. Knauss,
      As I understand, the 4.6% figure you quote includes items that cannot be negotiated such as Social Security and Fica, I believe this is misleading to the community. Those items are non negotiable. When you advocated for and approved Mr. Batchelor’s 8% increase, those items were not included. This leads me to question the transparency we should expect. You mention how you speak with community members, I have lived here for years yet have never been surveyed, received mailings or had any opportunity to express my thoughts regarding the tax increases. So here are my thoughts, as one of the wealthiest counties in the state, as a nationally ranked school district with exemplary teachers, and as a young parent with a child just entering kindergarten, I believe it is short sighted to settle on a 2.01 increase. If we are to maintain excellence, we need to properly fund the district including compensating the hard working teachers with a fair and equitable contract. Mr. Knauss you have my permission to vote for a 2.5 or 2.85 increase. In regards to negotiations, the video speaks volumes. You have my permission to settle a fair and equitable contract, bargain in good faith or perhaps recuse yourself from the negotiation team.

      Concerned constituent

    • Keith Knauss says:

      Bailey D,

      I’d be happy to respond to your concerns and enter into a dialog, but only if you are comfortable providing your name and township. I try not to respond to messages with pseudonyms as it becomes too easy to make unsubstantiated statements and take extreme positions. Last night there were 6 residents who stepped up to the microphone at the board meeting and expressed their opinions. I may not agree with their positions, but I respect that they identified themselves, thus taking responsibility for their message. If you would rather correspond privately, my name and number are on the district web site.

      As a starter, I’ll note that “Social Security and Fica” are almost the same thing. FICA is the act that mandates that 12.9 percent of your salary goes into social security and 2.9 percent of your salary goes into Medicare. Maybe you meant to say SS and PSERS

  2. Mary Short says:

    Less than 44¢ per day is the cost to give the teachers what they were promised, no what they deserve. Our district will not continue to be the high ranking, high scoring district if we lose great educators. And that will certainly be the case of the Board continues with its narrow minded thinking.

  3. Keith Knauss says:

    Again, the union leadership loves to divert attention away from what it would really cost to fund their contract demands by coming up with the 44 cents refrain. It’s not 44 cents per day: It’s an ADDITIONAL 44 cents a day, or $160 per year, on what is already an average homeowner cost of about $16 per day, or $6,000 per year. And let’s be clear: That’s $160 more this year, then $320 more next year, then $480 more in year three, and this goes on forever since the district has never reduced taxes.

    I’ll leave it up to Mary Short to calculate the additional financial burden imposed by the union’s demands on a resident who plans to live in the district for another two decades.

  4. Mary Short says:

    Mr. Knauss:
    As a taxpayer of this school district, I find your dismissiveness insulting. Our family chose this area specifically because of the school district. Your narrow-mindedness and pennywise / pound-foolish attitude are a disservice to the very people you are suppose to represent. Whether it is 44¢ or 88¢ per day, most here can afford that. Most homeowners will certainly see its value in the good education of their children and the return on investment when property values continue to increase due to the high value of our school district.

    I echo Mr. Bailey D, as someone who has not been canvassed or polled. You have my permission to vote for 2.5 to 3% increase. After having watched the video, I do not believe you have acted in good faith either to the Board, the Union or the people of Unionville-Chadds Ford School District. I feel you should recuse yourself from negotiations.

  5. Molly Pitt says:

    Does anyone else feel like we never get a straight answer? I just want a straight answer.

    1. Does the 8 percent raise the assistant superintendent received take into consideration the cost of health care?

    2. Is the 4.6 percent the teachers are asking just salary or are health care costs being factored in?

    As taxpayers, I believe we are owed these answers. I believe we need to be informed so that we can compare apples to apples. We are an intelligent tax base and understand how the data and facts can be manipulated.

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