Following the examples of other School District and city unions, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers has reached agreement with the District on a one-year extension of its current contract, with a 4 percent pay increase effective March 15.
Like Mayor Nutter, Superintendent Arlene Ackerman pushed for one-year contract extensions of all expiring union contracts, saying she hadn’t had sufficient time on the job to engage in a comprehensive negotiation process.
In a joint statement, the union and District said they would now work on a multi-year agreement addressing school safety, class size reduction, recruiting and retaining qualified teachers, the structure of teacher compensation and the work day, and closing the achievement gap.
Three other District unions – representing maintenance workers, school police, and administrators – settled earlier for a one-year extension with a 3 percent pay increase effective this fall. Contract talks with cafeteria workers are continuing.
The teachers’ contract extension, through August 31, 2009, includes a provision allowing union members who are covered by a family member’s health insurance to opt out of the District plan and get cash compensation. The opt-out program could be a money-saver for the District.
Prior to the settlement, several activist groups expressed concern that there had been no public discussion of key contract issues – in particular, the District’s long-standing difficulty providing adequate staffing in high-poverty schools.
“I think both parties need to be back at the negotiating table early and need to talk about how to include parents in the process,” said parent Gerald Wright of Parents United for Public Education.