This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Two friend-of-the-court briefs filed this week with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court support the position of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers that the School Reform Commission does not have the power to impose contract terms in areas that traditionally have been negotiated.
One was filed by the advocacy group the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools (APPS) and the other by Rob McCord, a candidate for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. McCord’s brief was written by the PFT’s attorneys.
The SRC has asked the court to rule quickly and affirm its right to impose work-rule changes on the union as negotiations have stalled. With the teacher-hiring and transfer process already underway, Superintendent William Hite has announced his intention to weaken the role that seniority plays in making assignments and deciding on layoffs.
The APPS brief, written by attorney and former District teacher and administrator Rich Migliore, says that parents and other advocates — the District’s primary stakeholders — have not been heard in this issue.
It argues that the law authorizing the state to take over the District does not "implicitly authorize the SRC to dictate working conditions or ignore their public responsibility to negotiate a labor agreement which provides our children with the stability of their teachers which our children need and deserve."
It says that Philadelphia’s ills are caused by the state’s "abdication" of its responsibility to adequately fund schools and that the SRC’s policies are designed to dismantle and privatize the District.
McCord’s brief repeats the PFT’s argument that the SRC has not been able to "effectively respond" to state budget cuts, so now it wants to "blame the problems" of the District on teachers and other union members.