Philadelphia Teachers Union, Media Ignore Expired Contract

Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) bused members to Harrisburg today to demand more money, while contract negotiations between the union and the school district seem to be at a standstill.

A teacher in the district told Media Trackers the union has been quiet for the past couple of months. At a professional development meeting in May a PFT representative did not even speak to the members, saying there was nothing “new or important.”

Until a new contract settlement is reached, PFT salaries and benefits remain frozen at current levels.

The Philadelphia media rarely mention that PFT has refused to take any salary or benefit cuts to help offset the estimated $440 million budget deficit for the 2014-2015 fiscal year, or that the school district has asked the union for $95 million in concessions for next year.

Reporters also neglect to mention that PFT did not come through on the request for $133 million in concessions for the current fiscal year.

Instead, the press attacks the city and the state for not adequately funding the school district — though city and state aid to the district have been increasing since Republican Gov. Tom Corbett took office, and the district’s loss of funds can actually be attributed to the end of spending from President Obama’s 2009 “stimulus.”

Recent headlines on the subject include:

Contrary to the headlines, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers has room to give back.

Taxpayers are paying an average of over $110,000 for each Philadelphia teacher’s total compensation package, reported

Costly benefits PFT members receive include:

  • Leave Pay and Substitute Pay: PFT members seemed to be absent a lot in FY2012. The number of leave days logged by PFT members totaled 205,646. The school district paid $41.7 million in leave pay and over $20 million for substitute teachers for PFT members.
  • Wage Continuation Program: This program protects members from “salary loss due to an illness or non-work related injury that extends beyond… sick time” and it cost the school district $6 million in FY2011 and $5.2 million in FY2012. In FY2012, PFT members logged 36,380 days of leave under the wage continuation category.
  • Termination Pay: This cost to the school district has significantly increased in the past few years because of the number of layoffs the school district has experienced. In FY2011, the school district paid $15.8 million, and in FY2012 the school district paid over two times that amount — $36.2 million. The school district pays the full cost of unused personal leave days and 25 percent of unused personal illness days.
  • Health Insurance Premiums: The school district paid $132 million for health insurance premiums in FY2012.
  • Health and Welfare Fund: The school district paid $66.6 million toward this fund in FY2012. This fund pays for members’ dental, vision and prescription benefits.
  • Legal Services Trust Fund: The Philadelphia School District pays $155 per union member per pay period into this fund. In Fiscal Year 2012, the school district put $2.3 million toward this benefit. The purpose of the fund is to provide “personal legal services through prepayment of, or provision in advance for, legal fees in whole or part.”

According to a report by EAG News, FY2011 was similarly costly for the school district.

Instead of sitting down at the negotiating table and figuring out a contract that will help the school district bridge its budget gap, however, PFT paid for four buses to head to Harrisburg and demand more money from the state.