Two crucial Philadelphia School District labor contracts are about to expire as 120,000 students return to school this week, most after 18 months out of classrooms.
Pacts for the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and the Commonwealth Association of Administrators run through Tuesday.
Negotiations with the PFT, which as the district’s largest union represents 13,000 teachers, counselors, school nurses, and support staff, continued through the weekend and resumed Monday.
“We’re not at all close,” said a source close to the talks who wasn’t authorized to publicly discuss them. “We’re far apart.”
Jerry Jordan, PFT president, said in a statement that he wouldn’t comment on specifics, “but I will say that we’ve made progress in some areas and have progress to go in others. Our end goal is very simple: a negotiated agreement that respects the remarkable work our members do day in and day out.”
The source said the district and PFT just began discussing salary and benefits over the weekend but were also still talking about work rules.
The PFT agreed to a one-year contract last fall, giving members a 2% across-the-board wage increase and pay increase for years of experience and education. Philadelphia teacher salaries range from $47,192 for beginning educators to $93,689 for “senior career teachers.” Paraprofessionals, the lowest-paid PFT workers, earn between $15,010 and $55,653.
In a Friday email to members, PFT president Jordan said the two sides had “lengthy sessions” that touched on “preparation and professional development time, workload models, and assignment policies and procedures, as well as other topics.”
Earlier this month, Jordan, in another message to members, characterized negotiations as “sometimes dicey — at times we are making gains, at times the district continues to push forward nonsensical ideas that we will not accept under any circumstances.”
While Philadelphia teachers have the power to strike — something the PFT lacked for 17 years under the state takeover law — no such action seems imminent, or likely. The union recently forwarded strike loan applications to members but said the offer was no indication that a strike would be called.
“It’s the last thing the city needs right now,” the source said. “We’ll go right down to the wire to get a settlement, if we get a settlement on time.”
The PFT has scheduled a membership meeting for Tuesday night.
Superintendent William R. Hite Jr., at a Thursday news conference, described negotiations as “productive and active” but acknowledged talks might not be wrapped up by the Tuesday deadline.
CASA, the Teamsters-affiliated local that represents 700 principals and other administrators, is also in active negotiations, said Robin Cooper, its president.
“It’s been a long, difficult process,” Cooper said.
“We just want our contract to reflect all we’ve done during these last 18 months, and what we do every day,” Cooper said. “For my members, a good compensation package with everything they’ve had to deal with, leading this district through all that, that would make school reopening even better.”