Contract Organizing

  • New Flyer: Calculate Your REAL 'Shared Sacrifice'

    Want to explain to your neighbors, friends, and colleagues how much teachers already 'give back' to our schools and communities?

    Our new flyer compares the exact dollar amounts teachers already contribute everyday in our classrooms and two years without a contract, side-by-side with the additional REAL costs of the SRC's new health givebacks (hint: it's way more than $70 a month!).

    Download the printable flyer here, and share widely in your building and community how much teachers really sacrifice!

    (And while you're at it, remind them that it's not about the money anyways- this is the SRC and Corbett playing politics with the lives of teachers and students).

    Screenshot_2014-10-08_at_6.42.53_PM.png Screenshot_2014-10-08_at_6.43.05_PM.png

    If you want more details on how to calculate the true total of your 'shared sacrifice' under the proposed health plan, here's the full breakdown of costs and benefits (download the PDF here):


  • EMERGENCY MEETING: Thurs 10/9 4-7pm at Tierra Colombiana (5th and Wyoming)

    Emergency Public School Community Meeting: COME MAKE A PLAN TO HIT THE STREETS AND FIGHT BACK!

    Thurs 10/9 4-7pm at Tierra Colombiana (5th and Wyoming, 4535 N. 5th St., 19140)

    On Monday, in a barely-announced meeting designed to keep the public out, the Philadelphia School Reform Commission (SRC) voted to cancel the PFT contract and require that members begin paying for benefits out of their own paychecks. This radical attack on schools is yet another move by Gov. Corbett’s SRC to deprive people of their hard-earned money, benefits, and way of life.

    Join educators, parents, staff, students, and neighbors from across the city for drinks, snacks and solidarity. We will be strategizing next steps in the ongoing fight for the schools our city deserves. New and old, school-based and not: all are welcome. Come share your opinion and hear from other Philadelphians who know that we can’t cut our way to high-quality schools. 

    Please email, share, and tweet widely. And don't forget to put next week's SRC meeting on your calendar for an all-out rally.

    If you can't make it tomorrow, WE will be hosting follow-up community meetings in the next two weeks

  • It's Not About The Money

    Today, the School Reform Commission unilaterally voted to cancel the contract and require that PFT members begin paying for their benefits out of their own paychecks.


    In this age of supposed austerity, this proposal can masquerade as being reasonable. After all, many public employees already pay for benefits out of their own paychecks. Teachers should chip in like the rest of working America, right?


    The thing is, SRC’s demands have nothing to do with providing cash for the district, and everything to do with attacking teachers and their union for political gain.


    Let’s look at the facts to see what’s really going on.

    • The District has already saved millions with teacher salary freezes -- but won’t admit it or say how much. Any teacher who hasn’t yet reached the top of the salary schedule receives an average salary increase of $2862.63 each year. With this second year of freezes, now these teachers are short an average of $5725.26 for 2014-215, but the district refuses say just how much these givebacks add up to, or even acknowledge this sacrifice already imposed on teachers.
    • $43.8 million may seem like a big number, but it’s a tiny piece of the pie. What the districts claims they will save with these benefits payments represents only 1.4% of the district’s 2014 operating budget. To see how the costs break down, check out this interactive visualization of the complete budget. (Try picking out which two central office budgets come closest to $43.8 million.)


    Not yet convinced? Consider a few other expenses and revenue options:

    • Banks are currently making a fortune off of the district. Nearly 9 percent of the annual budget -- a whopping $276.4 million dollars -- goes towards debt servicing. That does not mean paying back debts. That just means paying interest on existing loans and bonds. Why is profit for big banks being valued over health care for teachers?
    • Charter operators are not being asked to give back. Non-District operated Schools represent 27.6% of the district’s budget. Since each charter network sets up its own system for benefits, SDP cannot impose an across-the-board change, but no demand for any kind of giveback is being made.
    • Philadelphia businesses are not being asked to pay their share. There are many ways that Philadelphia gives businesses a pass when it comes to supporting public education. The ten-year tax abatement has cost the city $26.1 million in potential revenue. Hotels owe the city another $2.6 million in unpaid taxes. All in all, new developments and improvements supported by tax abatements will cost the school district $50 million in 2014.
    • Philadelphia institutions aren’t, either. In the 1990’s, more than 40 tax-exempt non-profit organizations, including the University of Pennsylvania,  provided the city with $9 million dollars worth of payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT). In 2011, that dwindled to below $400,000 and has dropped even more since then. By contrast, Princeton University alone gave $7.7 million in PILOT money to their community in 2012.


    So, if it’s not about the money, then what’s it about? Look carefully at what else is being demanded.

    • In their statement, SDP calls for the dismantling of the PFT Health and Welfare Fund. This office is a cornerstone of the services that the union provides. Because they are not directly in charge of the funding, the Health and Welfare office is free to work as an independent advocate for members in need of its services, putting health and well-being before costs. Employer-based benefit programs typically do the opposite, making their bottom line a financial one.
    • Even if the system for health care coverage did change, there is no reason that the Health and Welfare fund couldn’t continue to manage those programs.
    • What else did the SDP choose to cut, effective immediately? Payments to the PFT Legal Services Fund.

    Let the public know -- this is not really about funding. This is an attempt to dismantle the union that defends public education in Philadelphia.

    In the face of this underhanded attack, working educators will continue to honor the contract they have with the children of Philadelphia and serve them as best they can.

  • How to Calculate What You've Already Given Back

    Note: This information is now available as a PDF, with the health care costs proposed by SDP on the back. Print and share with your colleagues.


    “It is time for the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers to share in the sacrifice.”


    This statement has dominated recent news, with the School District of Philadelphia claiming that givebacks on health benefits are necessary to help balance the budget.


    Not only does this statement insult the working educators who rely on the PFT Health and Welfare fund to keep them healthy and working, it assumes that teachers have not already sacrificed, when we have -- and there’s a exact dollar amount for each and every teacher.


    How to Calculate What You've Already Given BackScreen_shot_2014-10-06_at_8.14.18_PM.png


    First off, if you haven’t yet added up the supplies you buy out of pocket, do so. Especially if you used to be a recipient of the $1000 “high needs classroom” stipend!


    The most important calculation, though, is your frozen salary.


    If you are not yet maxed out on the salary schedule, you "gave back" thousands of dollars in unearned pay for the last school year -- and since the pay scale is still frozen, you're on track to give back even more for 2014-2015. For example, a teacher frozen at Step 5 has already saved the District $2753 last year, and will save them $5419 this year.


    Use the chart below to calculate your exact giveback by subtracting your frozen step salary from your actual level of seniority. If you were frozen out of an education increase, include that in your calculation as well.


    Certified Teacher (Regular)




    Bachelor's Degree

    Master's Degree

    Master's Plus 30

    Step 1




    Step 2




    Step 3




    Step 4




    Step 5




    Step 6




    Step 7




    Step 8




    Step 9




    Step 10




    Step 11





    Then, make your giveback public knowledge. Tell your friends and family. Post it on Facebook. Talk about it at work. Inform the parents of your students. Break the silence that employees have about salary (especially since all of our salaries are already public record.) We need to combat the fallacy that teachers have not sacrificed. We know the truth, the public needs to hear it from us.

  • "I Became One of Those Statistics"

    On August 21 and 22nd, PFT President Jerry Jordan made himself available for one-on-one meetings with members in front of 440. Below are the comments from one member who spoke with him.

    Dear Jerry,

    You invited teachers to come to the table today and air their thoughts, feelings and very real experiences in the face of unprecedented budget cuts, ongoing contract delays, a demand that teachers be a funding source for our struggling schools and a continued lack of concern or political will to honestly address these issues. 

    I have come today as a retired teacher.  I retired in June, 2013, as the lack of a contract resolution continued to loom and budget cuts were going to directly affect my ability to do my job effectively.  I taught kindergarten in a culturally diverse neighborhood in a building that was so overcrowded it was recording 169% enrollment.  In my last year of teaching, 12 out of my 30 students were ELL students from a very diverse background.  Two of those students came into kindergarten speaking no English at all.  I was fortunate to have a part-time classroom assistant that fully supported and enhanced my kindergarten program.  I was able to offer a developmentally appropriate, differentiated writing component known as Kid Writing and a math component with daily small group instruction that assured the children were getting the best possible start because of this support. 

    I learned at the end of the 2013 school year that the classroom assistants would be cut.  The contract was still unresolved.  Politicians and School District administration were demanding that teachers become a funding source.  Evaluations were to be built around the junk science of value added measure.  Basic contract issues, which are students learning conditions, were being violated.  Schools were continually threatened to be closed and there was nothing on the horizon that signified positive change. 

    So, I became one of those statistics of experience and professional expertise that opted to retire.  I wasn’t quite ready to retire and felt that I still had much to offer the teaching profession but I knew the quality of what I could do had been and was continuing to be eroded by sources beyond my control. 

    Thank you for allowing me to “come to the table” today.

  • The Numbers Don't Lie: De Facto Pay Cuts and Making Sense of Political Games

    By Klint Kanopka

    One of the reoccurring themes in this entire budget crisis is that the teachers need to “step up” and do their part.  This is a thinly coded demand for monetary concessions, but we’ve done that already and with significant savings for the district.  The proposed contract includes salary decreases for all staff on a sliding scale from 5-13%.  The state government, the SRC and the School District of Philadelphia seem to think it is reasonable to balance their budget by looking to their employees as a revenue stream, but they’ve chosen to ignore the contributions that have already been imposed on the PFT, which I’ll attempt to quantify below.

    First, some background on how dire the budget is, as school is set to open in under a month.  The current $81 mil budget cap is about 3% of the school district’s overall budget.  One of the plans that’s been proposed is holding school until the money runs out, but there hasn’t been a clear assessment of what that might look like.  When you subtract out costs that don’t reduce with time (rents, charter payments, central office, building engineers, utilities, etc.) and assume an even distribution of the remainder, you arrive at a cost of about $6.75 million per instructional day.  Without the $81 mil, the SDP has 93.5% of its remaining time-dispersed budget.  This equates to a loss of 12 instructional days, moving the end date for the year to June 2nd.  This might not sound awful, but it’s 6.7% of the entire school year.  However, it may be worth chopping off the last 12 days of the year in order to prevent schools from having to absorb the newest suggestion of cuts of staff and services.

    The alternative proposal, which looks, at least, postponed for now, is to lay off staff and increase class sizes into the 40’s.  Those of us working in schools know that this is essentially impossible, from space constraints (many teach in rooms that can barely fit the 33 students they already have) to a compounded inability to reach and meet students’ social, emotional and academic needs.

    So let’s get back to Chairman Green and Governor Corbett’s telling the PFT to “step up” and give additional concessions in order to close the deficit (caused primarily through state funding cuts and administrative mismanagement, but I digress). 

    To assist the district, in 2013 the teachers’ union agreed to skip their yearly salary increases, known as step raises.  The average step increase, calculated from the salary schedule, is $2862.63.  For the 13-14 school year, there were 18,390 teachers employed in the district.  That year we saved the district about $52,643,827, a figure that could have bought nearly eight instructional days.  This savings is reoccurring, because every year the teachers are earning less than they should be.  

    For the coming 14-15 academic year, considering the step raise we already skipped and the new one we probably won’t get, the district will be able to save $105,287,654.  This figure is 4% of the district’s total operating budget, 23% more than the current deficit and accounts of an amount that would pay for almost 16 instructional days.  Every time we forego step increases, the savings compounds.

    If I look at my own salary, I’ve already given back in the form of 1) a missed step raise, 2) no high-needs subject bonus (meant to attract physics, math and chemistry teachers) and 3) no recognition of the Master’s degree I completed in December.  If I compare my actual earnings to my expected salary for the 13-14 school year, I’ve already taken my 10% pay cut.  This doesn’t even factor in the loss of compensation for the debate team I coach or the hours I spent tutoring students.  Let’s also ignore the 5% of my salary I spent on supplies for my classroom, lab and extracurricular activities.

    Viewed uncritically, the language used to frame these cuts might make them appear more palatable to the public, but the people pitching them aren’t conceding over one quarter of their six-figure salaries.  For teachers who earn less than our suburban counterparts and are forced to purchase all of our own teaching supplies, these cuts have a massive impact on our homes and classrooms.  Cuts that are being spun to “save our schools” are actually the exact cause of death for extracurricular activities, hands-on inquiry investigation, and classroom innovation.  

    Today, the SDP took a small step in the right direction by taking additional salary reductions off the negotiating table. However, there was zero mention of the millions already saved by these de facto cuts, or any discussion of when they might be restored. In a situation where the future of our children and city are at stake, what sense does it make to demonize and exploit the very people, the working educators, who step up to bat for them every day?  Maybe the state thinks they can sit on their hands and demand more from those giving the most, but the numbers don’t lie.  We can’t afford it.

    Klint Kanopka is a physics teacher at the Academy at Palumbo.

  • Caucus Members Issue a Call to Action


    Working Educators members have written a call to action for Philadelphia teachers to "speak out and shed light on the injustices that are occurring in our schools every day".

    Published on The Notebook's Blog, the piece calls on teachers to take action on our Philly Teachers Sound the Alarm Campaign. Check out the full text below, then go contribute your post to Philly Teachers Sound the Alarm. 

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  • The Value of Teacher Tenure

    If one reads some of the education reformers' reactions to the Vergara decision effectively eliminating teacher tenure in California, one would think that tenure is a way of protecting evil, incompetent teachers from perpetrating malpractice on loads of innocent, unsuspecting students.

    The truth, however, is that tenure does not guarantee teachers their jobs. It is just a way of affording teachers due process rights so they are not disciplined in an unfair or prejudicial manner. Principals and other administrators have a clearly defined and not-that-difficult process to discipline and even fire teachers if they care to use it.

    Many experienced teachers will tell you that the protection of tenure is what enables them to advocate strongly for the rights of their students.

    Most of us have more than one story about trying to get services of some kind for a student and running up against  institutional or administrative apathy, intransigence, or outright resistance. Knowing we are protected by tenure rules give us the freedom to fight for the rights of our students in the way they deserve.  If teachers were constantly afraid of being written up and/or fired with out due process, they might hesitate to go to bat for their students.

    What happens when the school district lets it be known they do not want to spend any more money on Special Education services for students, but a teacher has a student he/she just knows has a reading disability?  Bugging the principal, psychologist, and office of special education services enough times to get that student tested might actually get a teacher fired if there were no tenure protections.

    What about the teacher who calls and reports the abuse of a student by a family member? If the family were angry and powerful enough, that could be a problem for a teacher without tenure. 

    What about test cheating whistle-blowers? In the Philadelphia cheating scandal, some who did not participate in cheating were targeted by cheating principals, but tenure protections prevented these honest teachers from being fired.   

    In all these instances, tenure protects both students and teachers—not the bogeyman of the incompetent teacher.

    The “tenure is bad” straw man argument is simply a way to allow school districts and principals to fire experienced teachers and make sure that the teaching force becomes a bunch of fearful worker bees who dare not have an opinion or advocate for the rights of their students.


    Additional commentary:


  • Guide to PFT Contract Proctections

    With the end of the year right around the corner, and observations and personnel letters being filed, now is a good time to review:

    What are the basic protections of my PFT Contract?

    The PFT contract is a detailed and valuable document worth reading in its entirety—but at 200 pages, it can also be useful to have a summary of the most important points!

    Below are some brief descriptions of certain protections provided by the contract. If your building does not follow these procedures, we encourage you to work with your PFT Building Rep and Regional Rep to address these issues.

    You can also download this information as a printable PDF to distribute to your colleagues!

    How much prep time am I guaranteed by my contract? (Article XVIII, Sect. B1)

    • Elementary Teachers receive 225 minutes of prep time per week, which equates to 1 preparation period/day.
    • Middle and High School Teachers (please speak to your individual building representative because each school will vary based on scheduling)
      • Advisors receive 360 minutes of prep time per week, which equates to 8 prep periods per week.
      • Non-Advisors receive 270 Minutes of prep time per week, which equates to 6 prep periods per week.
      • Secondary Teachers are also guaranteed a 30 minute duty-free lunch each day, which is separate from prep time. Elementary Teachers are guaranteed a 45 minute duty-free lunch.


    What happens if my administration asks me to miss my prep?

    • Lost prep time must be documented in writing with the date and the reason. Notice is to be given prior to the missed prep but no later than the following day. Note: this excludes preps that teachers cover for each other directly.
    • You are to be repaid for any lost prep time after the first 4 prep periods lost per school year. Repayment in the form of actual time does not require your permission if granted within 30 days.
    • Prep time not repaid in the form of actual time within 30 days of the original lost prep is eligible for repayment. You have two options for repayment of missed preps after 30 days:
      • You can elect to have it repaid as personal days for the following school year. Seven prep periods equals one personal day.
      • You can elect to have it repaid in your last paycheck of the year at the current extracurricular activity rate of $39.87/hour.


    Do I have the right to have someone with me in a meeting with my principal, parent or other non-PFT persons? (Article XIV Sect. 4,5,6)

    Yes! You have the right to representation in any meeting.

    • Notice for meetings with administration (that could affect your rating or your file negatively) s) )hould be in writing and must state the reason for the meeting and that you are allowed to have representation from the PFT in the meeting.
    • You can request that ANY PFT member join you in meetings that take place with any non-school district employees (i.e. parents) present.


    What can be placed in my personnel files? Am I allowed to see what is in my files? Who is allowed to place information in my file? (Article XIV, Sect. B)           

    • You have 2 files. You have one official personnel file kept at 440 for official district and PADOE documents. You also have a personnel file kept at your building for unofficial documents and memos.
    • The only people allowed to place anything in your files are:
      • Employees from District Human Resources
      • A ratings officer (with your permission), usually the school administrator charged with observing you in a professional capacity.
      • Anyone who is witness to events pertaining to any kind of disciplinary action at your school (again, with your permission, this will take place during a meeting with representation).
    • You have the right to review your personnel file kept at 440 every year. You can ask your PFT Building Representative for a file review request form at the end of the school year.
    • You also have the right to review your building level personnel file. You should be given the ability to check this file in the presence of your PFT Building Representative at the end of every school year. They will advise you on what can be destroyed and what must remain in your building level file.
    • Any information considered derogatory or that could cause you to be suspended or fired (such as a 204 formal discipline letter) cannot be placed in your personnel file at 440 without a formal meeting and your consent by signature.
    • You have the right to dispute or correct any information placed in an informal observation by a written letter and/or evidence to be attached to the observation. You are also allowed to attach evidence to any memos given to you.
    • Any unfavorable anecdotal records you receive can be removed from your personnel file after 18 months, as long you have not had any more unsatisfactory events in the intervening time.
    • After 5 years, the following items may be removed from your file and destroyed:  Letters of suspension or demotion, personnel transaction forms and state ratings forms.
      • You must apply to have this action performed.
      • You cannot have any additional incidents during the 5 year period you wish to have destroyed.


    If you have any questions regarding these policies, please ask your PFT Building Representative or Regional Representative. For more resources like these, connect with the Caucus of Working Educators at

  • What is a Public Employee worth?

    Caucus Member and Blog Contributor George Bezanis has a letter in today's Daily News! Here's the text:

    For those of us who choose to enter urban public education, we don't expect to get rich. The fact that we serve our fellow citizens and, in some small way, contribute toward alleviating society's ills is often reward in itself. In exchange, we also like to see every now and then that society appreciates our efforts and our sacrifices.

    Unfortunately, the city of Philadelphia, the commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the School Reform Commission continue to denigrate and degrade us every chance that they get. When we ask for librarians to nurture a childhood spark of inquisitiveness, we get layoff notices and shuttered doors. When we ask for counselors to help guide society's most vulnerable members through the treacherous waters of American inequity, we are given platitudes about how the money was given away in tax breaks in order to spur economic growth. When we dare point our finger at a government that refuses to invest in our children, they shrug their shoulders and tell us it's our fault for seeking a decent living wage.

    And what of our "ludicrous" wages? Wages so high, they claim, that the SRC is seeking to forego any cost-of-living adjustments and, in fact, demanding that we give back 13 percent of it.

    If salary is a measure of one's worth, then society must despise the educators of our city's youth. Recently, TWU Local 234 was offered an agreement by SEPTA that would give the city's bus drivers a 5 percent cost-of-living wage increase over the next two years. If approved, this means that the average bus driver in the city of Philadelphia would now earn over $68,000. Meanwhile, the average city school teacher currently earns $70,790. If the SRC has its way, that figure would drop to $61,587.

    SEPTA, like the School District of Philadelphia, gets a large proportion of its funding from Harrisburg. SEPTA also continuously runs deficits, like the school district, because the job of transporting commuters in one of America's largest metropolitan areas is a Herculean task - as is the job of educating its children.

    What, therefore, are we Philadelphia educators left to believe? What should we think when one predominantly state-supported entity gets so much funding that it can afford to offer its public employees a 5 percent pay raise over the next two years, but the other expects its public employees to take a 13 percent pay cut?

    Clearly there are priorities and these priorities do not rest with our children.

    Perhaps it's time that the teachers of this city abandon their sense of civic duty and their desire to inspire the next generation.

    Perhaps it's time for them to exchange their numerous collegiate diplomas for a driver's license and a place behind the steering wheel.

    Maybe then we'll finally get some appreciation.

    George Bezanis