NBC10.com - Daralene Jones
Philadelphia teachers refuse to consider a pay cut at a meeting Monday night to discuss a new contract. NBC10's Daralene Jones reports.
Negotiations between the state-run School District of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers are still continuing after the expiration of the old collective bargaining agreement over the weekend.
The state's largest district is trying to achieve more than $100 million in concessions from the union as it works to close a $304 million deficit. That deficit resulted in nearly 4,000 layoffs of teachers, administrators, secretaries and counselors and the ending of arts programs and extra curriculars. The teachers have blamed big cuts in state aid for much of the district's financial problems.
Fifty-million in emergency funding has been promised to the district which resulted in the rehiring of 1,000 staff members.
Classes for the city's 190,000 traditional and charter school students are scheduled to begin on Sept. 9.
Last week, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan said that his group is ready to make concessions, but would not specify exactly what those concessions are.
"What we are proposing is not a long-term solution, just trying to piece together a way to open schools safely," Jordan said.
Monday night, around 4,000 teachers attended a two hour meeting to discuss contract negotiations.
"I'd be fine with a strike," said Melissa Dunne, of Harding Middle School. "I absolutely would. We need to show we're not backing down."
By the end of Monday's meeting however, there was still no vote on a strike or a tentative contract agreement.
"It's clear the district is still trying to negotiate in bad faith around things that my students so desperately need," said Anissa Weinraub.
So far, the union has only agreed to start contributing to healthcare and a one year pay freeze. District officials say however that won't be nearly enough to save the $103 million needed to rehire more laid off employees to help keep schools safe. The superintendent is also pushing for a paycut up to 13 percent.
"If it was 13 percent I would have to sell my house," Dunne said. "No way my husband and I could afford that and take care of our daughter."
During the meeting, the union members determined that solidarity was key in negotiations. They also remained firm that a paycut is not an option.
"The entire community is watching Philadelphia," said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. "This is a metaphor for how a country, a state and a city actually treats its most vulnerable targets."