The saga in Philadelphia continues. A few weeks ago, NCTQ reported that the School District of Philadelphia would be unable to open schools on time unless they received additional funding. Conditions have improved ever-so-slightly since then. Mayor Nutter has committed to provide $50 million to the district, and the School Reform Commission has suspended portions of the school code to allow the district to call teachers back out of seniority order and de-link pay and years of seniority. A total of 907 school staff members will be called back this week, including 116 counselors, 45 assistant principals, and 50 teachers, and Superintendent Hite has said he will be able to open schools safely.
Meanwhile, the Philadelphia teachers' contract expires on Saturday, and there is no indication that the parties are near an agreement. The district is seeking somewhere over $120 million in concessions in addition to changes in contract language including the following:
· Pay cuts that range from 5 to 13 percent depending on teacher salary
· Elimination of pay raises based on degree and years of experience
· Contributions to healthcare benefits
· Elimination of seniority in teacher assignments
· Increase the school day to 8 hours
The contract's expiration date is an important milestone, but like their peers in many other districts, Philly teachers are likely to work even without a new agreement. In any case, since Philadelphia is a "distressed school district of the first class" under state code, a teachers' strike is illegal in the City of Brotherly Love.
September 9th will mark the beginning of the school year but there is no end in sight to the turmoil facing teachers and students.