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Countdown, Day 4: Talks to resume Friday; teachers are under a 'status quo' contract




Teachers' contract negotiations took a break on Thursday for Rosh Hashanah, with plans to resume Friday and likely continue through the weekend.

"The expectation is that they are going to go on into the weekend," said District spokesman Fernando Gallard.

Meanwhile, teachers are working under what is known as a "status quo" contract. How is that different from a contract extension?

It means that nothing changes: Teachers will get paid whatever they were paid in June and will not get automatic increments they might qualify for due to working an additional year or acquiring an additional degree.

"Status quo means status quo," said George Jackson, spokesman for the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. Gallard confirmed that this is the case.

It also means that, for now, the benefits package is intact.

Under a contract extension, the built-in pay increments would take effect, but the contract expired Aug. 31 and the District has not offered to extend it.

The District wants teachers and other PFT members to take pay cuts between 5 and 13 percent, depending on salary level, and start paying part of their health premiums. Most PFT members now do not.

The question of what powers the School Reform Commission has to impose a new pay scale or change other terms of employment is murky and ultimately may have to be resolved by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. As long as contract negotiations are taking place, there is no impasse and contract terms cannot be imposed. Some legal observers say that the SRC simply does not have that authority under Act 46, the law governing the state's takeover of the Philadelphia schools.

The School District of Philadelphia faces an unprecedented situation – uncertainty over whether it will be in a position to open safe and functioning schools in September.

This feature, appearing each weekday, is an effort to highlight developments and motivate action as we get closer to the beginning of the school year. We encourage readers to send us information about both concerns and breakthroughs to


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Dale Mezzacappa

Dale is a contributing editor at the Notebook. She has reported on education since 1986, most of that time with The Philadelphia Inquirer.