In an effort to improve underperforming schools, the Philadelphia school district has cancelled the monopoly bargaining contract with teachers in that district. Predictably, teacher union officials are grousing about the cancellations, but principals are loving it. Larry Sand, President of California Teacher Empowerment Network, and teacher union expert, has the story in heartland.org.
The teachers unions are spitting venom at the Philadelphia School Reform Commission. The PSRC—an appointed body—was established in 2001 as a response to overall school district ineptitude. It didn’t help much.
So the kids aren’t learning, the taxpayer is taking it in the shorts, and the teachers unions couldn’t care less.
After 21 months of negotiating and failing to produce a compromise, the PSRC abruptly cancelled the existing teachers union contract. PSRC chairman Bill Green said the move will save the district $54 million this year, $30 million of which would be quickly pumped into schools beset by large class sizes and reductions in arts and Advanced Placement classes. He added that the money “will be invested directly in classrooms, with principals empowered to use the cash as they see fit—to hire a full-time counselor and nurse, perhaps, or to pay for more supplies or after-school programs.”
Additionally, the cash-strapped city will see some fiscal relief. The new plan dictates that teachers start paying, in part, for their own health insurance—between $21 and $71 per month.
Teachers Unions React
So the lot of taxpayers and kids is improved; who is griping? The teachers unions, of course.
Listening to their leaders’ responses, you’d think the apocalypse was nigh. Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan angrily described the actions as “union busting.” (No, Jerry, the PSRC is not trying to bust the union; it is merely removing the bloated perks that have been bestowed upon your teachers for years.) He then groused, “We are not indentured servants.” Predictably, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers—PFT’s parent union—charged into the fray, calling the move (yawn) “a war on teachers.” Weingarten further pontificated, “Three weeks before the gubernatorial election, this surprise early-morning School Reform Commission meeting, lawsuit and notification to employees imposing a contract and compensation cuts can only be characterized as Gov. Corbett’s well-planned Hail Mary ambush.”
Weingarten’s overwrought comments are hardly surprising given her enmity toward Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican. But other PSRC supporters include former Democrat governor Ed Rendell and Democrat mayor Michael Nutter, who remarked, “The action, unfortunately, was necessary, given the fact that the system is broken. There is no more money to be had from anywhere.”
In the midst of all the huffing and puffing, it isn’t clear the PSRC’s move is even legal. Whether Act 46, the state takeover law, gives the SRC the power to cancel union contracts remains to be seen.