Philly Imposes New Teacher Salaries
PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ The city school board imposed new salaries and working conditions on 21,000 teachers in the nation’s fifth-largest school district after negotiators failed to reach a contract agreement Thursday night.
The Philadelphia Board of Education unanimously approved the new financial package at the recommendation of Mayor John Street, who set a 7 p.m. deadline for a settlement.
The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers had threatened its first strike since 1981 if Street unilaterally imposed the new terms, potentially idling 210,000 pupils. But union officials did not immediately call a walkout Thursday.
``We have all kinds of options to look at. What we do or what happens will be on the head of the mayor,″ chief negotiator Linda Harris said.
The union must give two days’ notice of a strike, so the earliest teachers could be out of school is Monday.
The new terms would extend the school day by one hour and the school year by two days, give principals more say over where teachers are assigned and implement a merit pay system in which teachers whose pupils are doing well are paid more money.
In exchange, the teachers would get a $500 bonus and a raise of 17 percent over five years, Street said. The union said the terms would impose longer hours for teachers without enough of a pay increase.
The teachers have been working without a contract since Sept. 11, when a court-mandated contract extension expired. The two sides have been negotiating since January.
Street said he met with union president Ted Kirsch for about an hour Thursday night but failed to reach an agreement before the school board’s decision.
``I’m disappointed but I’m not surprised. We’re in very different places in some significant ways,″ Street told KYW Radio at City Hall. He said he would meet with union leaders again after this weekend.
Under a two-year-old state law, the old contract cannot be extended. Rather than risk a state takeover of the school system, union members decided to work without a contract for the first time in 35 years.
The law allows Street to unilaterally impose a new contract, but he had been trying to avoid such a step.
More than 1,000 teachers chanted ``We want a contract″ and ``Where’s our respect″ and held signs outside the Board of Education building.
``We know we’re never going to get paid what the suburban teachers get, but we deserve something fair if he wants us to work the extra hour″ said fourth-year teacher Christine Patrone.
School Board President Pedro Ramos said the new terms were approved despite widespread teacher opposition because the city wants to begin negotiating with state lawmakers for next year’s funding.
``We’ve been working on school reforms for a long time the planning and implementation has to start now,″ Ramos said.
On the Net:
School district: http://www.phila.k12.pa.us