This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
One component of the new teachers’ contract that has stirred the most passions is the provision that teachers at Renaissance Schools are "forced transfers" who must reapply to stay at the same school. As details of the Renaissance Schools initiative were released on Wednesday, another blow to the union status of Philadelphia teachers came to light.
Any District schools that are turned over to an outside provider or converted to a charter will no longer be staffed by District employees and will no longer be part of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers’ collective bargaining agreement.
Unlike the "diverse provider model" of 2002 pioneered by Edison Schools Inc. and others, District officials say this upcoming round of management by external providers does not allow for a "thin management" model where an outside company or other partner is running a school staffed by School District teachers.
In the new "charter" and "contract" form or Renaissance Schools, the District says teachers will be employees of the provider or manager. Hence, teachers will not have union representation unless they organize to secure it.
It is still unclear how many Renaissance Schools there will be this year or in future years, but the PFT contract does not put any limits on the number of Renaissance Schools that could be turned over to external providers and therefore staffed by non-District, non-union employees.
"Negotiations dealt with the terms for in-District turnaround schools," PFT spokesperson Barbara Goodman commented. She pointed out that under the No Child Left Behind law, management has the right to turn schools over to external providers, taking them out of the bargaining unit and in some cases out of the district.
In contrast, two other school employee unions appear to be hanging on to their bargaining status at Renaissance Schools, though they are working under expired contracts. The District’s "2010-2011 Renaissance Schools Implementation Plan" says on page 25 that maintenance and cafeteria workers at all Renaissance Schools will maintain their assignments for 2010-11, will still be District employees, and be covered by their collective bargaining agreements.
Here’s what the District’s just-released Renaissance Schools Implementation Plan says happens to a current District teacher who applies and gets hired back at a school that has been turned over to a charter or external manager:
"If selected as a teacher for a Renaissance charter school, the employees will have the option to either request a leave of absence from the School District of Philadelphia for up to five years, or resign from the District and then accept the new position at the Charter School. If selected as a teacher for a Renaissance contract school, the employees will no longer be an employee of the School District of Philadelphia and will need to resign and accept the new position with the contract organization."