Teachers at area Catholic high schools have a new contract with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. By a 3-1 ratio, the 500 members of the Association of Catholic Teachers approved a two-year pact Friday afternoon.
The archdiocese initially had insisted that teachers agree to provisions that would have left them vulnerable to midyear layoffs if COVID-19 caused a significant decline in enrollment. Union members on Tuesday rejected a proposal with the layoff language. The new deal does not permit midyear layoffs.
Teachers at the 17 area Catholic high schools represented by the union will get raises of $1,000 in the first year of the pact and $1,200 in the second year; teachers who serve as department heads and moderators of clubs will receive small increases in their stipends as well. Teachers’ health insurance premiums and co-pays will stay steady.
Under the teachers' recently expired contract, teachers were paid between $40,200 and $82,905, depending on experience and education.
Rita Schwartz, union president, said she was relieved that a deal was struck. She criticized the archdiocese as attempting to “take advantage of the pandemic.”
“I’m so proud of my teachers for being so strong,” Schwartz said Friday. “Losing teachers in the middle of the year just would not work, and it would not be a good thing for kids, parents and teachers.”
Jason Budd, the archdiocese’s chief negotiator, said in a statement that he was gratified by the agreement.
“With today’s announcement, we are able to move forward without interruption for the benefit of the students and school families we serve,” Budd said. “The newly ratified labor-management agreement allows schools to continue to thrive by providing a means to respond efficiently and effectively to the rapid pace of change that is a natural part of the 21st century educational landscape. It also provides the latitude to respond effectively and rapidly to the unique circumstance of a pandemic.”
The contract gives the high schools, which have about 10,000 students, some flexibility to deal with pandemic conditions, Schwartz said, including provisions for things like mask wearing and permitting teachers' lessons to be recorded to allow students to access them remotely.
The agreement applies only to secondary school teachers. Teachers at Catholic parish and regional elementary schools are not unionized.
“The teachers have great hopes and expectations for this school year, one that will be filled with challenges as they navigate an entirely different school environment," Schwartz said. "The teachers are amazing in ordinary circumstances, but they will be unbelievably amazing this school year.”