Teachers Union to Vote on New Contact With Philly Schools

Both sides are being tight-lipped about the deal that could end a four-year stalemate.

Photo | Jeff Fusco

It’s been four years since the Philadelphia School District and its teachers’ union have agreed on a contract – and five years since teachers have received a raise.

That could end tonight. The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers will vote on a new contract with the district – and they’re expected to approve it. 

The PFT and the school district reached a tentative contract agreement on Friday. PFT President Jerry Jordon said in a statement that he was “hopeful that putting this contract in place will mean improved stability for our members and our schoolchildren and enable Philadelphia to more effectively recruit and retain educators.”

On Friday, Mayor Jim Kenney said the tentative agreement serves as “an important step for students, teachers and Philadelphians.”

On May 1st, roughly 1,000 Philly teachers called out of work, most of them to protest the lack of a contract. Dr. William R. Hite, the district’s superintendent, said on Friday that his “top priority this school year has been to get a contract with the PFT that recognizes the hard work of teachers and school staff.”

“Teachers and school staff are at the heart of our work to create great schools close to where children live,” Hite said in a statement. “They have supported students through the District’s difficult financial times and they are crucial to the progress we are making in schools across the city.”

Neither side has detailed the deal, which would run through August of 2020. A source told Philly.com that the contract would be “expensive” and could bring layoffs. Negotiations throughout the past four years have largely centered on the district’s financial issues – last year, a state audit of the district found a $500 million structural deficit.

In a statement, City Council President Darrell L. Clarke praised the contract and said he would “continue to press our leaders in Harrisburg to fully fund all of Pennsylvania’s public schools.”

Clarke’s full statement:

“This is a fair contract that shows respect for the professionalism and dedication of PFT members. While the District continues to suffer from years of underfunding from Harrisburg and a broken governance model in the form of the state-run School Reform Commission, Dr. Hite and his administration have worked aggressively to shore up facilities, resources, and personnel, all while implementing new strategies such as community schools to support every facet of our children.

I want to thank PFT President Jerry Jordan for his relentless advocacy on behalf of Philadelphia educators. The professionals who are tasked with shaping the minds and characters of our youth deserve to be compensated fairly and given a full toolbox to meet this awesome challenge – no matter where they teach. This tentative agreement is a significant step in the right direction. 

I will continue to press our leaders in Harrisburg to fully fund all of Pennsylvania’s public schools, to give administrators the authority they need over cost drivers like unaccountable charter operators, and to end the failed SRC experiment and allow Philadelphians to reclaim our schools.”

The vote will take place at 6 p.m. tonight at the Liacouras Center.

Follow @ClaireSasko on Twitter.