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Philadelphia teachers enter school year with no contract

Stephon Johnson | 9/12/2013, 3:47 p.m.

The United Federation of Teachers in New York City isn’t the only one working without a new deal in place.

Despite heavy negotiations leading up to the beginning of the school year this week, teachers in Philadelphia entered the school year without a new collective bargaining agreement.

In August, the old collective bargaining agreement expired, and the teachers’ union has tried to negotiate a new deal with the Philadelphia School District with no success.

“At this time, the PFT [Philadelphia Federation of Teachers] has not reached a tentative agreement for a new contract with the School District of Philadelphia,” said PFT President Jerry Jordan in a statement earlier this month.

“Teachers and staff will continue to work under the terms of the current contract. We are making some progress in negotiations, but there are still difficult issues that we are working hard to resolve. We will continue to work with the district to negotiate the terms of a new contract.”

The Philadelphia School District has found itself in dire straits lately. With a $304 million deficit, the district wants to achieve more than $100 million in concessions from the PFT. So far, the deficit has resulted close to 4,000 layoffs of teachers, secretaries, administrators and counselors alongside the cutting of arts programs and extracurricular activities.

The district has also asked for $180 million from the state, and the state has given an extra $2 million in funding, and the city has borrowed $50 million just so schools could open on time. As part of a plan to reduce costs following a decline in the student population, there are 24 fewer schools in the district. This has resulted in 9,000 students attending 53 different schools than they would have attended just 12 months ago.

Class sizes have also increased in Philadelphia public schools. The union contract agreement limits class sizes to 33 students; however, parents and teachers have taken to social media to complain that class sizes reached as many as 40 students.

The day before classes began in Philadelphia’s public schools, a couple hundred protestors held a “funeral” and candlelight vigil outside of Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett’s Philadelphia office on Sunday night. But the protestors said the service wasn’t for a person in particular, but the “hopes and dreams” of public school students.