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Inside the PFT’s new contract: 3 years of raises for Philly teachers

PFT president Jerry Jordan laid out the deal, which he called, “a very strong agreement,” in a Wednesday night meeting.

Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan, shown in a file photo, laid out the particulars of a three-year tentative contract for 13,000 teachers, counselors, school nurses and other support staff.
Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan, shown in a file photo, laid out the particulars of a three-year tentative contract for 13,000 teachers, counselors, school nurses and other support staff.Read moreSteven M. Falk / File Photograph

The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers have a tentative deal that would boost the pay of 13,000 teachers, counselors, nurses, and other support staff by 9% over three years.

The three-year deal, finalized early Wednesday morning, is tentative until ratified by members, who have until Sept. 15 to weigh in on it. In a nonbinding vote, 93% percent of PFT members who attended a virtual membership meeting Wednesday night approved the deal.

PFT president Jerry Jordan laid out details of the pact which he called, “a very strong agreement,” at the meeting.

He said members would get a 2.75% raise and $1,500 bonus in the first year of the deal, a 3.25% raise and $1,000 bonus in 2022, and a 3% increase in 2023. Union members will also receive pay bumps for education and years of experience.

Paraprofessionals, the PFT’s lowest-paid workers, whose salary starts at $15,010, will get an entirely new salary structure, with an immediate average pay bump of 10%, and higher salaries down the road. New paraprofessionals’ salaries will now start at $22,073.

The agreement, Jordan said, is “very strong, and does a significant amount to elevate the wages of our paraprofessionals.”

There will be no increases in what PFT members pay for health insurance over the life of the contract.

It was not immediately clear how much the deal would cost the Philadelphia School District.

Jordan said work-rule changes include retention bonuses for teachers in certain hard-to-staff schools and a doubling of the amount teachers are reimbursed for buying classroom supplies: They will now get $200, the first increase in that allowance since 2004.

The district will also double tuition reimbursement expenses, and will establish, with the PFT, a program to ensure more Philadelphia students have access to learn algebra before high school.

After the deal is ratified, the district will develop a workload model for related service providers like physical therapists and speech language pathologists, meaning instead of having responsibility for a certain number of students with no regard to the severity of their needs, providers’ caseloads will take into account the needs of children assigned.

“We’ve taken some great strides in this agreement on many conditions,” Jordan said.

Jordan told members the deal didn’t achieve everything the PFT had wanted, but hit the most important notes and was the first on-time teachers’ contract since prior to the state takeover of the district in 2001.

Earlier in the week, Jordan had signaled to his members the two sides were far apart, and said the district tried to insist on “nonsensical work rule changes” and a “paltry salary increase” that he refused. He said the union was “on the brink of a strike vote ... and yes, we were serious.”

District Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said in a statement he was pleased with the deal, which “fairly supports the needs of our PFT members,” and will advance school board goals to improve student performance.

“I am thrilled that our PFT members can move forward with confidence, upon contract ratification, and focus on the important work of lifting up our students every day,” Hite said.

“Thank God,” was Mayor Jim Kenney’s reaction to the deal.

“Having a contract and moving forward in this year when we need the structure is really, really important,” Kenney said at a Wednesday news conference.

Jordan said the district had asked PFT for a four-year deal, but he declined.

“I felt a lot more comfortable with the district being able to fund the three years,” he said at a Wednesday night news conference.

Philadelphia teachers now earn between $47,192 for beginning educators to $93,689 for “senior career teachers.” If the new deal is approved, senior career teachers will max out at about $102,000 — lower than most teachers in suburban districts with similar years of experience.

The district’s principals’ contract, which also expired Tuesday, has not been settled. The two sides are back at the negotiating table Thursday to hammer out a deal.