Philadelphia Members Back New Contract Agreement

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Members of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers voted decisively on Jan. 21 for a new three-year contract that features a greater voice in improving instruction, big across-the-board raises, and the help and support necessary to develop a highly effective teaching force.

The pact, approved by a ratio of more than 2-to-1, spans September 2009 through August 2012 and includes two across-the-board raises of 3 percent each. It also features a new peer review and assistance program that is designed to provide new and struggling teachers with the mentoring, coaching, professional development and clear expectations they need to succeed.

AFT president Randi Weingarten calls the Philadelphia agreement "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."

"Labor negotiations are challenging processes that must take into account a local area's circumstances and needs," Weingarten adds. "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."

Says PFT president Jerry Jordan, who is also an AFT vice president: "This landmark agreement will elevate the professionalism and ownership of the teaching profession." Through the pact's design, "teachers become partners in improving academic achievement in their schools, raising their own level of professionalism and supporting their colleagues."

Other highlights of the contract include:

  • Greater say for teachers in plans to turn around struggling schools, along with site-based selection by the principal and a committee of teachers to fill vacancies in high-needs schools;
  • School-based salary incentives that will extend to entire school staffs and were negotiated to reward not just the best performers but also the most improved buildings; and
  • Enhanced school safety and employee protection through school- and administration-level committees to secure a safe, orderly work environment.

"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," Weingarten says. "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. [Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, AFT press release, Mike Rose]

January 22, 2010