February 26, 2015
The union took the matter to court and won earlier this year. But the SRC isn’t accepting the decision and it’s taking the matter to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, arguing such actions are within its right during periods of fiscal distress. Philadelphia schools face an $80 million budget deficit this year.
“We remain convinced that the SRC had clear statutory authority when it acted last fall to redirect a projected $200 million in savings to our schools over the next four years,” according to a statement from the commission.
Currently, Philadelphia, Ephrata and Warwick are the only districts in Pennsylvania whose teachers are not required to pay for healthcare. The SRC contends that this privilege cannot be maintained while Philadelphia's schools remain in a funding crisis.
The PFT, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, argues that the problem has more to do with SRC decisions showing favoritism toward charter schools in the city.
Last week, the SRC approved five new charter schools in Philadelphia, rejecting 34 other applicants. The court's decision to wipe out some of the district's projected savings may have impacted the SRC's freedom to expand charters, which currently make up a third of the district.
Read the full SRC appeal story here.
In another schools-related lawsuit, Americans for Fair Treatment announced Wednesday it is suing the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and the school district in Philadelphia's Court of Common Pleas in an effort to halt their longstanding practice of using “ghost teachers” to do work for the union during the school day.
A provision in the contract between the teachers union and the district allows teachers and other district employees to work for the union full-time.
Currently, up to 63 District employees may perform union work on school time, and most of those employees working for PFT have been out of the classroom for at least 15 years, according to The Fairness Center, which is representing the Americans for Fair Treatment organization.
According to watchdog.org, the 20-or-so district employees currently doing union work continue to earn their full salary, benefits and pensions from the district.
David Osborne, lead counsel for the Fairness Center, said the PFT reimburses some of the $3 million in wages for the teachers, but there is no mechanism to ensure pension costs are repaid. He estimates those costs at $1 million. “If you break it down year by year,” he said, “it’s going steadily up.”
“We reimburse them 100 percent,” PFT spokesman George Jackson told Watchdog, “for whatever salary benefit cost they incur.” The PFT is billed monthly, he said.
Read the "ghost teachers" story here.