Letter: What does Keith Knauss really want?

To The Editor,

Letters1In 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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  1. Jordan Gushurst says:

    I live in Pocopson township and currently have 2 children in the school district. My third child is currently in a full day Kindergarten program at a different school but will be joining the district next fall. I have not historically attended school board meetings however I generally follow what is going on in the school district and overall state policies for pensions and funding of education. I have read the school board presentations about the current contract negotiations.

    It is my opinion that our state government made a very poor decision many years ago when pension benefits were raised based on faulty assumptions about future investment returns. I believe Ridge was governor at the time but there were many political leaders who own that mistake. Unfortunately the bills are are now coming due in the form of higher pension fund contributions. I believe we all need to start adjusting to the reality that there is no longer a 4-5% “safe” return to be had let alone the higher rates of return they were counting on. You can no longer buy a CD at the bank and get 5% returns.

    In terms of total compensation I don’t think employees should expect to receive salary increases that greatly exceed the rate of inflation. I think the district should provide fair and competitive salaries otherwise we risk losing good workers or would fail to attract qualified applicants in the first place. However I also think our schools are a great place to work because of the quality and engagement of the children and parents. I don’t think you can easily put a price on the satisfaction a teacher gets from teaching to children who want to learn with parents who are very supportive in so many ways. The administration seems to listen to new ideas such as the recent change to elementary trimester grading instead of quarterly which I believe was a teacher proposed idea. All the evidence I see is that our district is very attractive to teachers and is a great place to work. Increasing compensation more than the overall rate of inflation seems unnecessary to me and unfair to those who are not receiving similar increases in their compensation or who live on a fixed income.

    Money is important but it is not the only way that we let teachers know they are appreciated.

  2. 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% of your salary goes into social security and 2.9% of your salary goes into Medicare. Maybe you meant to say SS and PSERS.

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