Philly teachers union reaches tentative deal with district

By KYW Newsradio 1060

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) -- Teachers will not be hitting the picket line in Philadelphia after union officials say they reached a tentative deal with the school district.

This agreement is a “significant win” according to Jerry Jordan, the president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, which represents 13,000 members.

"Our members have been working virtually since March, and it is certainly very, very challenging. Teachers have learned new techniques to be able to educate children," Jordan said Thursday. "As a classroom teacher, you’re not trained to teach remotely, and they’ve really had to reinvent themselves."

The union had a remote membership meeting Wednesday night. Jordan says there was a “voice vote,” and 89% of members threw their support behind the tentative deal. Earlier in the week, union officials raised the possibility that they could authorize a strike.

Jordan says it was very close. "Our members did not feel valued without a contract, and they certainly expressed interest in taking a job action. Glad that we didn’t have to go there.”

Their last contract expired on Aug. 31. The new contract is for just one year because of the pandemic Jordan said.

“It was difficult to negotiate a long-term agreement because of the amount of money the state and city, who are our main funders, have spent on COVID-19,” he said.

The agreement includes a 2% increase across the board. Additional raises, based on years of experience and levels of education, would go into effect on Jan. 4, 2021.

The agreement would expire on Aug. 31, 2021, so Jordan says the plan is to begin renegotiations “well before that” -- perhaps as early at January

The union says it has a health and safety agreement with the district, which is separate from the contract. It addresses concerns about the coronavirus and details are laid out in a memorandum of understanding.

“We did not budge on health and safety and have landed on an extremely strong health and safety plan,” Jordan said.

The PFT confirms the approximate cost to the district is $31 million.

A School District of Philadelphia spokesperson says they are not commenting at this time.

PFT members still have to officially ratify the agreement. The union plans to get voting information to members for review so they can get final approval within the next few weeks.