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Push has come to shove in the school district’s contract talks with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.

The district announced Monday that it planned to impose new work rules on teachers.  It also plans to ask the state Supreme Court to give it permission to impose even more.

At issue is the legality of Act 46, the law allowed the state to take over operations of the district.  That same law gives the School Reform COmmission the power to impose terms and conditions if a contract is not in effect.

The district’s contract with the PFT expired last August 31.  For nearly a year, the two sides have been talking on and off about a new contract, but negotiations remain stalled, mostly due to a district demand that teachers take wage cuts and begin to pay for their health benefits.

The district order issued Monday does not deal with any wage or benefit issues. Apparently that step will await the Supreme Court’s decision on the powers granted the SRC by Act 46. The new rules deal with principals right to skip seniority rules in selecting certain staff. You can read details of the draft guidelines here.

The case can be fast tracked because Act 46 gave the Supreme Court original jurisdiction over cases involving the law.

Ever since Councilman Bill Green was appointed chair of the SRC in January, he has made some tough statements about imposing new contract conditions on school employees without contracts.

The veiled threat to impose apparently was enough to make the principals’ union to agree to wage cuts and other concessions.

Earlier this month, the 500 members of the Commonwealth Association of School Administrators ratified a new contract that will cut their pay by more than $20,000 annually, mostly by shifting them from being 12-month to 10-month employees.

The workers will also begin contributing toward benefits for the first time – they will pay 7 percent this year, and 8 percent beginning in 2015. The principals also agreed to major changes in work rules, including allowing the district to use factors other than seniority in layoffs and recalls.

Finally, a performance-based compensation system will replace “step” increases, and only those employees rated “proficient” or “distinguished” will be eligible for pay bumps.

The district is seeking many of the same changes from the PFT, which represents classroom teachers and other in-school professional help, such as counselors and nurses.


Photo: Philadelphia Public School Notebook