Philly teachers avert strike with tentative deal for one-year contract
PFT President Jerry Jordan said the district had engaged in “a reprehensible ploy to try to get us to swiftly agree to a half-baked safety plan.”
Philadelphia teachers have a tentative one-year contract.
Jerry Jordan, president of the 13,000-member Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, told members in a Wednesday night meeting that the union had come to terms with the Philadelphia School District.
Members will receive a 2% across-the-board wage increase retroactive to Aug. 16, and pay increases for years of experience and education, effective Jan. 4.
“This was a significant win for us,” Jordan told reporters during a briefing Wednesday night.
The news came at the eleventh hour, averting what could have been the first Philadelphia teachers' strike in decades. Jordan had said Monday night that the district had decided it was “unwilling to resolve our one-year contract extension” and that he would take a strike vote Wednesday night if no deal was reached.
On Wednesday, Jordan said the district had engaged in “a reprehensible ploy to try to get us to swiftly agree to a half-baked safety plan.” Instead, he said, the union negotiated “one of the most stringent safety plans in the nation" — including social-distancing standards, air quality reports, sanitizing procedures, and a process in which a “world-renowned physician” will resolve disputes over whether adequate measures are in place.
Jordan — who said the standards were not part of the contract, but a separate memorandum of understanding — said he did not anticipate the agreement would change the current timetable for returning to school buildings. But he said the union had not yet been able to review air quality reports.
“If there’s a rise in the city of Philadelphia, please believe me when I tell you that we are not going to sit by silently and allow children and staff to go into buildings that are not safe for them,” he said.
District spokesperson Monica Lewis had no comment.
PFT’s last contract expired Aug. 31.
Members, including teachers, counselors, secretaries, nurses, classroom assistants, and other school workers, took an informal vote during Wednesday night’s meeting, and 89% were in favor of the contract, Jordan said. But they must ratify or vote down the contract via phone or secure computer connection in the coming days, with a final decision expected on or about Oct. 29.
After months of remote education because of the coronavirus, teachers in grades pre-K through 2 are expected to report to school Nov. 9, with students in those grades eligible to return to school two days a week Nov. 30 if their families opt to return them to classes. There is no return date yet for most students in grades 3 through 12.
The contract will cost $31 million, Jordan said. It comes at an uncertain financial time for the school system, which has already spent $70 million on COVID-19 expenses. District officials are projecting a coming financial storm; one school board member has already raised the possibility of school closings in coming years.
Philadelphia teachers are currently paid $45,360 to $91,852; teacher’s aides' salaries range from $14,716 to $30,110.
Because the contract is for just one year, Jordan said the union likely would return to the negotiating table in January.