Two friend-of-the-court briefs filed this week with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court support the position of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers that the School Reform Commission does not have the power to impose contract terms in areas that traditionally have been negotiated.
One was filed by the advocacy group the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools (APPS) and the other by Rob McCord, a candidate for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. McCord's brief was written by the PFT's attorneys.
The latest "friend of the court" brief in the legal battle over whether the School Reform Commission can impose contract terms on the teachers' union, in the face of stalled negotiations and a worsening budget scenario, is from the Philadelphia School Partnership and PennCAN.
The groups urge the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, where the SRC filed its motion, to act soon. "The situation has deteriorated to the point that it requires prompt and definitive resolution," says the brief, which was prepared by the law firm Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young.
The legal battle over whether Philadelphia's School Reform Commission has the power to unilaterally impose new work rules on the District's teachers is getting more intense with the filing of new arguments urging quick action by the Supreme Court.
In a friend-of-the-court brief filed Friday, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) maintains that "the collective bargaining agreement ... has proven a particularly high barrier to the District effecting reforms essential to providing services in a fiscally responsible and manageable manner."
In its petition filed last week with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the Philadelphia School District is asserting its right to make changes that could have the effect of casting aside nearly 50 years of collective bargaining history, during which its contract with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers has grown to govern not just salaries and benefits but minute details of daily life in schools.
To the PFT, the contract codifies protections for its members and guarantees them everything from functional water fountains to the right of senior teachers to claim positions in preferred schools. The union has long argued that its working conditions are student learning conditions and that some provisions, like limiting class size and specifying when schools must have counselors and librarians, have acted as a bulwark against the steady erosion of services while also preserving jobs.
Updated | April 2, 4:49 p.m.
The Philadelphia School District is proposing handing over two additional elementary schools to charter operators, assigning Muñoz-Marin to ASPIRA and Edward Steel to Mastery.
If the school communities approve, the two will be the 21st and 22nd low-performing District schools to be converted to charters under the Renaissance turnaround initiative.