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PFT files unfair labor practice charge about substitute outsourcing

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

Updated, 10:45 p.m. with District comment

As it had vowed to do, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers filed charges of unfair labor practice Friday against the School District for its decision to outsource substitute teaching.

The PFT, which is seeking an expedited hearing before the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board, claims that, in two years of stalled contract negotiations, the District never brought up the issue.

"The decision to outsource these services without negotiating with the PFT is a blatant violation of our contract," said PFT president Jerry Jordan.

On June 18, the School Reform Commission approved a $34 million, two-year contract, effective July 1, with Cherry Hill-based Source4Teachers to provide substitute service starting in September.

The company has promised to fill 90 percent of classrooms by January; the current fill rate is between 55 and 65 percent.

In explaining the reason for the outsourcing, District officials said that on any given day more than 400 classrooms — an average of nearly two per school — don’t have teachers. That means other teachers must give up preparation periods to cover them or administrators must forgo other duties.

More than 1,300 substitutes, including many retired teachers, are PFT members. A separate section of the contract governs their terms of employment and sets daily pay rates as well as rates for extended positions.

Substitutes work both by the day and as "long-term" subs filling in for teachers who are on medical leave or temporarily away from the classroom for other reasons.

In the complaint, the PFT says that it has been "deprived of an opportunity to negotiate with the District over the alleged savings that the District purports will be gained through the privatization of per diem and substitute teaching services."

Update: Late in the day the District issued the following statement:

“The School District of Philadelphia will continue to put the needs of students first which is exactly what the contract for substitute services accomplishes. It will allow the placement of teachers in over 400 classrooms that currently are left unattended daily due to the lack of substitute teachers. We will continue to vigorously defend the rights of our students to a thorough and effective education.”

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