Less than three months before its current contract expires, the Philadelphia School District's largest union is making progress in negotiations - but has yet to talk salary or benefits.
"There is no settlement," Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan said minutes after briefing members last night at Temple University's Liacouras Center. "We will continue to negotiate, more than likely, through the summer."
The teachers' contract expires Aug. 31. In addition to questions about pay, Jordan said, the teachers told him that they needed smaller class sizes and more services for the district's 167,000 pupils. They also lamented violence in their schools.
"They are concerned, and it came through again and again, about the lack of safety in some of the buildings," Jordan said. One member described a recent incident where a student threw a bunch of fireworks in a classroom, he said.
As for raises, "none have been offered," Jordan said, but any contract he brings to his members must include those. "Be assured, we will be asking for a salary increase. We will be asking for good health benefits," he said.
The district recently adopted a $2.3 billion budget for the coming school year, but that figure does not include funds for salary increases.
The union and the district began talking in February.
Jordan would not divulge how frequently the two sides are meeting, but he said that negotiations were "not regular enough, at this point."
A week into her new job as district chief, Arlene Ackerman said that she had not given her staff any directives about negotiation.
She said she had met with Jordan and was "very pleased" with their discussions.
It's clear that financial terms will need to be worked out, but the two are on the same page about school reform, she said. Ackerman said the door was left open to discuss differentiated pay - higher wages for those who teach in tougher schools.
"We may come out of it with something a little different than we've had in the past," Ackerman said in a briefing yesterday.
Jordan said the issue was on the table.
The union represents more than 16,000 teachers, librarians, nurses, counselors, psychologists, social workers, secretaries and assistants. Beginning teachers currently earn $41,111 yearly, and the most-senior teachers are paid $81,617.