This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
The latest "friend of the court" brief in the legal battle over whether the School Reform Commission can impose contract terms on the teachers’ union, in the face of stalled negotiations and a worsening budget scenario, is from the Philadelphia School Partnership and PennCAN.
The groups urge the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, where the SRC filed its motion, to act soon. "The situation has deteriorated to the point that it requires prompt and definitive resolution," says the brief, which was prepared by the law firm Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young.
The two groups favor the "portfolio model" of reform adopted by the SRC and back its position that it has the right to unilaterally alter work rules regarding seniority, teacher preparation times, and other matters that traditionally have been negotiated. The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers has vehemently opposed the petition.
"The Partnership and PennCAN are deeply concerned that the ongoing and annually worsening city school budget crisis — and the intractable labor disputes that always accompany it — will continue to erode the state of public education in Philadelphia," the brief says.
"The Commission needs to be able to … enact reforms to ensure schools can fulfill the needs of students as the Commission works through the obstacles to achieving financial stability. Every tool legitimately provided to it by the Legislature, including the ability to undertake reasonable staffing reforms, needs to be readily at its disposal."
The state law taking over the District allows for the direct appeal in legal disputes to the Supreme Court. There is no indication of when the court will hand down a ruling.