Representatives for the Philadelphia teachers union offered contract concessions today in their attempt to help the school district overcome budget problems.
The proposal includes a hold on salary increases and changes to its members' health care coverage.
“We know that at current staffing levels the school district cannot assure parents, students and employees that schools will be safe and more than just ‘functional,’” said Jerry Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. “Every child deserves access to a counselor, a school nurse, a librarian and other services in their schools.”
Schools are set to open Sept. 9.
The School District of Philadelphia spokesman Fernando A. Gallard said in a statement that in order to provide essential services to students, the school district needs resources.
"In this time of crisis, the district has asked all of its employees to contribute, including by salary reductions and making reasonable contributions to their health insurance costs," Gallard said in the statement. "We have asked for $103 million in recurring savings from the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, and their announcement today, while lacking in specifics, appears to fall well short of that amount. We clearly have a ways to go on both economics as well as on important educational reforms that will provide the type of learning environments our children deserve. We look forward to continuing the collective bargaining process.”
Jordan said he hoped Mayor Michael Nutter would use his power as mayor to push the governor's office to change how the state funds public education.
"Philadelphia has been targeted most harshly by the governor, but we have plenty of company statewide suffering from the effects of his policies," Jordan said.
In a statement, Mayor Michael Nutter said he acknowledged the teachers union publicly recognized that it must play a role in helping the school district push throughout the financial crisis.
"As I told leaders in Harrisburg in the many, many meetings during the spring and summer, Philadelphia needs a new funding formula for us and for districts across the state. It is a cause we’ll be fighting for in Harrisburg again this fall," he said. "But the issue before us right now is what’s happening at the negotiating table between the School District and the teachers union. And what was announced today lacks any detail. More to the point, it appears to be very far from the work rule changes and $103 million in savings that the district needs."
Nutter added that he is "disappointed that teachers union leaders, who profess concern for the city’s schoolchildren, were silent on the critical changes in staffing flexibility and related work rules that are vital if District schools are to become more competitive with other schools by being more welcoming, safe and academically effective."