PFT to City Council: Philly Needs More Teachers

Members of the union said yesterday that while teacher vacancies have decreased, the district still has a lot of room for improvement.

teacher vacancies

Photo | It’s Our City via Flickr / Creative Commons

Members of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, educators, and experts stood in front of City Council’s education committee yesterday to make a pitch for the city to recruit and retain more teachers than it has in the past.

According to the Inquirer, Councilwoman Helen Gym said during the meeting that more than 6,000 students in Philly lack a permanent teacher. The newspaper reports that Gym and the PFT claim that there are currently 117 teacher vacancies in the district, while the district claims there are 94, or that 99 percent of teaching jobs are currently filled.

If that’s true, little has changed since June, when district superintendent William R. Hite Jr. first announced that 99 percent of teacher vacancies had been filled and that the district was on track to have a permanent teacher in every classroom – the goal of a unfulfilled hiring strategy Hite launched in March.

It’s a definite improvement from October 2015, when the district kicked off the school year with 190 vacant teaching positions. The district’s chief financial officer, Uri Monson, said that the district has hired more than 1,000 teachers this year, which he said is “an incredible accomplishment for any business or school district of our size,” according to the Inquirer.

But those like Gym and PFT president Jerry Jordan said the district should set the bar well above what’s been done in the past. Educators at the meeting reportedly argued that the district should not only try to recruit more teachers, but to offer incentives in an effort to retain current teachers.

“We can no longer comfort ourselves with the notion that this year’s number of vacancies is an improvement over last year,” Jordan said yesterday, according to NewsWorks. “Because, quite frankly, our schoolchildren and parents deserve much better.”

The district’s teachers have gone four years without a raise, since the contract between PFT and the district expired in August 2013. Jordan reportedly rejected a $100 million contract the district offered this month, largely because the deal doesn’t include retroactive pay, cost-of-living adjustments or increases for earning advanced degrees, the Inquirer reported yesterday.

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