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As deadline passes, Jordan says progress made, but still no settlement

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

Negotiators for the School District and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers reached the midnight deadline without reaching agreement on a new contract.

PFT president Jerry Jordan said in an interview that the two sides "made some progress," although there were still many unresolved issues.

Asked whether the two sides were still far apart, he said, "There are a number of outstanding issues. We were not close enough to close the deal."

Jordan said that the negotiations would continue Sunday and throughout the holiday weekend. He is still planning to hold a general membership meeting on Monday night.

There seemed to be some disagreement between the statement Jordan put out just after midnight and what the District said. Jordan said that the current contract remains in effect, while the District said that it has expired.

Following is Jordan’s official statement:

"At this time, the PFT has not reached a tentative agreement for a new contract with the School District of Philadelphia. Teachers and staff will continue to work under the terms of the current contract.

"We are making some progress in negotiations, but there are still difficult issues that we are working hard to resolve. We will continue to work with the district to negotiate the terms of a new contract."

The District also issued a statement:

“The School District of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers are continuing negotiations so as to reach a multi-year agreement to replace their currently expired collective bargaining agreement. We remain optimistic that a settlement can be reached, and we are on target to have a safe and successful opening of schools on September 9. As additional information becomes available, we will provide it.”

The District is seeking deep pay cuts, as well as a restructuring of the compensation system and major work-rule changes including a weakening of seniority in assigning teachers. It says it needs $103 million in concessions from the union to help close what was originally a $304 million budget gap. Jordan made a statement on Thursday agreeing to a pay freeze and some benefit changes, but not to pay cuts.

The PFT has about 15,000 members, so to achieve $103 million in savings comes out to an average of nearly $7,000 per union member. The District is seeking pay reductions ranging from 5 to 13 percent, depending on salary level.

There is legal uncertainty over whether the School Reform Commission, which was given extraordinary powers when the state took over the District, has the power to impose terms on the PFT if no agreement is reached. Under state law, city teachers are prohibited from striking. Jordan said Thursday that he did not expect to call for a strike vote at Monday’s meeting in lieu of a tentative agreement.

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