The School Reform Commission and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers began negotiations on a new teachers’ contract February 5, with the current four-year agreement expiring August 31.
Both the SRC and PFT say they are hoping to reach a deal that will facilitate the success of students in the classroom. “We share the same core mission – educating children,” said SRC Chair Sandra Dungee Glenn in a statement
Recently re-elected PFT President Jerry Jordan said the first priority in the negotiations is safety. “Teaching and learning cannot be successful absent safety and respect,” he said.
Other priorities cited by Jordan and the PFT include lowering class sizes; expanding preschool education programs; ensuring the inclusion of art, music and libraries in every school; creating middle school programs to help students at risk for dropping out; and better incorporating high-level academics and job-preparedness programs into high schools.
Dungee Glenn said the SRC is still gathering input by “talking with administrators and our education folks about issues that have come up…and really looking at some of the things that they see as critical needs to helping us move the reforms forward.” In addition, the District has invited parents to voice ideas regarding priorities in the negotiations.
One key issue affecting negotiations is the growing cost of health benefits and pensions.
Though Governor Ed Rendell has proposed an $86 million increase in the state’s basic subsidy for Philadelphia schools this year, Dungee Glenn cautioned, “We’re not out of the woods yet. The governor’s budget is wonderful news, but I don’t think it’d be fair to say that [Philadelphia is] a well-funded district. We still have a structural deficit.”