Philly school superintendent backs down from pay-docking threat vs. union teachers

PHILADELPHIA —Philadelphia’s Superintendent of Schools has decided to back down from his threat to dock the pay of 1,000 of the city’s teachers – out of 8,000 unionized teachers there – who took a leave day without prior permission on May Day to protest years without progress on a new contract.

Superintendent William Hite’s climbdown came in a memo released in late May by the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, an AFT affiliate. PFT leadership initially did not support the walkout, which was organized and planned through social media by the Caucus of Working Educators, a group within the larger union.

Some 1,000 teachers took leave on May 1 because contract talks have gone nowhere for four years and they haven’t had a raise in five years. On an average day, 600 Philadelphia teachers are absent, replaced by substitutes. The old contract limited absences to 10 percent per school per day. In several schools, no regular teachers showed up, the caucus reported.

On May Day, the teachers took “a stand against austerity budgeting, racist attacks, deportations, wage theft, rampant gentrification, cutbacks on public services such as fair housing and education and, of course, the lack of a PFT contract,” the caucus said in a prior statement. “Our fight for a fair contract is a fight for the future of every single Philadelphia child and for the future of public education in Philadelphia.”

More than two dozen community groups, including Parents United for Public Education, the Philadelphia Student Union, Reclaim Philadelphia, Black Lives Matter, the Americans for Democratic Action and Fight for 15 joined the teachers’ May Day protests.

Meanwhile, PFT President Jerry Jordan reported that while there is no tentative agreement yet, “we are actively negotiating with the district.” And PFT’s website lists contract ratification procedures.

Philadelphia public schools, their teachers and their kids have also been victims of a stingy Republican-gerrymandered and GOP-run state legislature, which has cut school funding for urban districts. It also imposed an oversight board on Philadelphia’s school system.

In response, besides the walkout, the CWE, six school districts and seven parents are suing the General Assembly and the governor for “evading their constitutional responsibility to guarantee a thorough and efficient education for all of Pennsylvania’s schoolchildren.”

Pennsylvania is retorting that school funding is up to the legislature, leaving the courts without a role. Lower courts have ruled for the state, but the lawsuit is now pending in the state Supreme Court.

“May Day showed us that we have the capacity to transform our union and our city. We can make that vision a reality by building relationships with each other, taking collective action, and showing up for our students, our profession, and our future,” the Caucus of Working Educators concluded.

Source: PAI