By a strong majority, members of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) ratified a new contract Thursday night. The contract gives PFT members a greater voice in improving instruction and helping to develop and support highly effective teachers to work in “high-needs” schools.
WASHINGTON— The Philadelphia teachers’ contract, which teachers ratified last night by a wide margin, is another in a recent series of groundbreaking contracts across the country in which the teachers union and school management worked collegially to reach agreement on ways to raise teacher quality, student achievement and graduation levels.
The new contract emphasizes providing teachers with the tools, time and trust they need to be better educators, a crucial component of any effort to improve public education. Equally noteworthy is the agreement’s collaborative approach to addressing the unique issues facing the city’s public schools, including school safety, academic improvement and teacher quality. The contract provisions include teacher-administrator committees, a peer assistance and review program, schoolwide financial incentives and more teacher input in education decisions. Rather than allowing teachers to be scapegoats for systemwide failures, this agreement offers supports for struggling teachers, while providing incentives for effective teachers who decide to teach in the most challenging schools.
Labor negotiations are challenging processes that must take into account a local area’s circumstances and needs. When labor-management relationships are respectful and collaborative—not adversarial—genuine reforms emerge. We have witnessed this recently in such places as New Haven, Conn.; St. Paul, Minn.; Detroit; and now in Philadelphia.
Philadelphia’s contract comes on the heels of my speech last week, in which I said that strong labor-management relationships will be the catalysts to develop and implement real education reforms. Philadelphia teachers and the school district showed their shared commitment to doing the hard work required to map out a good blueprint for improvements. The dedication shown by Philadelphia’s adults will result in a brighter future for Philadelphia’s students.