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A New Chaos for Philly Schools After Teachers’ Contract Torn Up

A mural on a wall outside the now-shuttered University City High School in Philadelphia depicts the destruction of the African-American community Black Bottom. Photo: Julianne Hing/Colorlines

The Philadelphia School Reform Commission took an unprecedented move Monday and canceled its contract with the teachers union, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT), sending shockwaves throughout the city and its embattled public school system.

The announcement came after years of fiscal and educational crises in Philadelphia public schools, including the loss of 5,000 positions and closure of 30 schools. In the immediate and practical sense, the shift will mean that PFT’s 15,000 members will be required to pay 10 or 13 percent of the contribution toward their healthcare, meaning between $27 and $71 per paycheck, Philadelphia’s 6ABC reported. The money will go to close a $81 million deficit in the school district budget. But politically, the move will likely have long-lasting effects in the ongoing, national education reform fight which has often pitted politicians and education reformers against teachers, and those who represent them. 

In the immediate though, expect lawsuits. Philadelphia Inquirer’s Kristen Graham and Martha Woodall report:

Whether the state takeover law, known as Act 46, gives the SRC the power to cancel union contracts remains to be seen.


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It is clear that district officials are unsure themselves.

In 2012, the SRC lobbied lawmakers to amend the takeover law to give it the absolute right to impose terms on its unions. The amendment died when the Philadelphia delegation caught wind of the SRC’s maneuvers.

The SRC has imposed some work rules on the teachers’ union in the past year, but had always bargained contracts since its creation in 2001.

For more on how Philadelphia public schools turmoil has affected kids trying to get their education, read Colorlines’ 2013 report.

Julianne Hing

Julianne Hing is a reporter and blogger for covering immigration, education, criminal justice, and occasionally fashion and pop culture. In 2009 Julianne was the recipient of USC Annenberg's Institute for Justice and Journalism fellowship, which funded a reporting project on the impacts of criminal deportation on immigrant families. Julianne’s writing has appeared on AlterNet, Common Dreams, Hyphen Magazine's blog, The American Prospect's blog TAPPED and Ta-Nehisi Coates' blog at The Atlantic. Julianne tweets at @juliannehing.

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