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Philly schools chief again appeals to teachers for salary, benefits concessions

By the Notebook on Aug 28, 2013 10:40 AM
Photo: NewsWorks file photo

William Hite, Philadelphia school superintendent, says additional school funds need to come from teachers' union concessions.

by Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks

Staff shortages. Classrooms packed to the brink. Scarce money for basic school supplies.

This is the current reality for the Philadelphia School District.

As of Tuesday, District officials said they can count on only $83 million of the $304 million they said they needed in the spring:

  • $16 million from District savings;
  • $15 million from improved local tax collections;
  • $2 million from the state increasing its basic education funding;
  • $50 million from the city -- but the exact source of that money is still a point of disagreement between the mayor and City Council.

So what resources does this $83 million bring back to a district that laid off 3,859 employees in June?

"The bare minimum," said William Hite, Philadelphia school superintendent.

By that he means a bare-bones staffing and services scenario where:

  • Student-to-teacher ratios in classrooms districtwide will be at the 33-to-1 maximum allowed in grades 4 through 12 by the contract with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers;
  • Only select schools will have guidance counselors and assistant principals;
  • Money for building supplies and instructional supplies will be at a premium;
  • Outside of fall sports, no funding is allotted for district extracurriculars, and there is no funding for spring sports and music teachers beyond January.

Hite says that, at this point, additional funding for schools must come primarily from concessions from the teachers' union.

The District wants teachers to change work-rule provisions, including some that would weaken seniority; take pay cuts ranging from 5 to 13 percent (employees making more would contribute more); and begin paying into basic health-care coverage. Those concessions would add up to $103 million.

"If [District teachers] were using this profession to get rich, then this is not the place, and teachers will tell you that," Hite said. "What keeps them here is the work that they do with students, the fact that they're acknowledged and respected, and the fact that they can grow and develop professionally."

Union members disagree with Hite's rationale.

"I don't think we're being respected," said Amy Roat, teacher and union representative at Feltonville School of Arts and Science.

"What keeps us here in the District is the kids and that this is our community and our city," she said. "I agree that we're not trying to get rich, but I'm also not trying to be as poor as some of my students are either."

Read the rest of this story at NewsWorks

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Comments (59)

Submitted by Eileen DiFranco (not verified) on August 28, 2013 10:52 am
The eyes of the state and the country will not be on the teachers. They will be on a pretend governor, a weak mayor and a Machiavellian superintendent who orchestrated this mess. The question that needs to be asked repeatedly is what kind of people even come up with a budget that harms children in this manner? What kind of people consider - even for one moment- opening schools without secretaries and counselors? What kind of people affix their names to such a document? What kind of people play games like this down to the last minute? Evil is transpiring right before our eyes and people are looking at doomsday as the new normal. The public school system is being deliberately destroyed by the governor, the mayor, and the SRC with the permission of the superintendent. We'll be looking at classrooms packed to the gills with little to no support staff. Does this sit well with the press? with the people of Philadelphia? Please, open your eyes to the evil that is transpiring before our eyes. The school district is the victim of corporate looting, not of a union which has worked under very trying conditions set down by clueless superintendents. Shame on the governor. Shame on the mayor. Shame on the superintendent for allowing this to happen.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2013 12:56 pm
The district is the victim of 4 decades of sad mediocrity (and that is generous) from the dawn of public sector unionization to the SRC. Half a million middle class parents left the city, driven in large part by the low quality of schools and the high taxes that support them, but mostly the monopoly attitude of everyone involved in this pathetic bureaucracy. Since the SRC in 2001, funding per student has doubled in the district. But now charters allow lower income people to do what parents with money had been doing for decades- flee a culture of mediocrity. The problem is you guys still have taken no steps to make district schools attractive to parents with choices. Of course, the union attitude will prevail as it has for 40 years, "Not my job." But whatever happens, never take any responsibility for anything.
Submitted by Eileen DiFranco (not verified) on August 28, 2013 4:17 pm
I think you need to rethink what you wrote. Some of the very BEST schools in the state are in Philadelphia; Central, Girls' High, Masterman, Science and Engineering, and Bodine. There is nothing mediocre about any of those schools. People have left because the schools have been red-lined and because the city has relied upon a business model to run schools with the idea that an institution that works with human beings can somehow make a uniform product, regardless of the context. And, if you are looking for high taxes, check out the suburbs where housing values have fallen because taxes are so high. My guess is that you have not recently visited a public school or actually spoken to the union members you disparage. I invite you to spend some time in your local public school. Meet some union members. See the level of responsibility Ask the union members about the money they spend feeding, clothing, and supplying their students. And then we can talk.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on August 28, 2013 8:44 pm
Preach, Eileen, PREACH!!!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2013 11:22 am
Classroom sizes at both district schools where I've taught have been at 33 (or more) students for the last 3 years. Even if we give the concessions, classroom sizes will remain at this maximum.
Submitted by Anonymously Anon (not verified) on August 28, 2013 11:51 am
Nah, they want to hire two of you for half the price.
Submitted by Joan Taylor on August 28, 2013 11:37 am
This is a manufactured crisis. Our governor has chosen to let his friends and contributors slide on taxes; thus, we have this morning's story on the default of Corbett's frackers when it comes to paying their debts. Corbett has been an enthusiastic toady to corporate interests, and the SRC members are delighted to be allowed to sit at a table with the big boys who run the show. What a disgusting triumverate: Corbett, Nutter, SRC. Yuck!
Submitted by Teachin' (not verified) on August 28, 2013 11:18 am
Add the PFT that sold us out to that list of "yuck"
Submitted by A Teacher (not verified) on August 28, 2013 11:36 am
This is beyond shameful. This is what real evil looks like, and it is right at our doorsteps. They want teachers to bear the responsibilty of the mismanagement of the funding. We have put so much of our time, money and effort into the district that now they feel entitled to it. Instead of being grateful for the sacrifices-they want to break us. They want the public to believe that we are overpaid, greedy and don't want to help the children. Yup folks...that is evil. Whenever you put people in positions of authority that lack character and integrity...the people will suffer.
Submitted by anon (not verified) on August 28, 2013 11:56 am
hite, why not get off your duff and start making some noise about your buddy corbett cutting state payments to the bone and holding up 45 million in gifted federal $? how about making some noise about your buddy nutter, who by his silent compliance and the know-nothing votes of his two src members is complicit in the fleecing of the public? how about making some noise about your buddy pedro and the rest of the src that is elbow deep in running these charter scams that are stealing money from the children you've pledged to help? how about making some noise about your buddy gleason who is dangling that carrot over your head and making you jump through hoops to get it. how about making some noise about your buddies in the "reform" business who are pulling the money out of the system as quick as the taxpayers can put it in. i don't hear you hite. afraid of offending your bosses? how about shutting up and doing your job and stop trying to dismantle public education in philadelphia?
Submitted by Salve Sams (not verified) on August 28, 2013 11:18 am
I want to know what Sylvia Sims thinks about all this. She is a funding whiz and really knows her stuff when it comes to what is best for teachers and schools. Seriously, is there any other large city where a bus aide is making decisions that affect thousands and thousands of its teachers and children? Anywhere? I want to know. Nutter is a disgrace. Corbett exploited his weaknesses and the children get screwed. Good thing he put money aside for their future home, I mean prisons.
Submitted by Headstart teacher (not verified) on August 28, 2013 3:23 pm
That is what you get when don't value higher education - a former bus aide making important decisions. It's working out well for Hite - all according to plan.
Submitted by Only in Phila. (not verified) on August 28, 2013 3:38 pm
Yes, a bus aid bought by Comcast to do their bidding. Again, only in Philadelphia...
Submitted by Tara (not verified) on August 28, 2013 11:15 am
What happened when teachers appealed to the SDP when money was being wasted on Promise Academies? What happened when teachers appealed to the SDP to stop wasting money on unnecessary testing and scripted curriculums? If teachers' voices were respected several years ago, there would have been millions in savings to the district. Now the SDP expects us to willingly give back money. Maybe the SDP shouldn't have given out raises over the summer. (By the way, Dr. Hite said those employees deserved the raises because they took on extra responsibilities. What does he think teachers do when they use their own money to buy students school supplies, uniforms, coats, shoes, and even food?)
Submitted by Teachin' (not verified) on August 28, 2013 11:34 am
"If [District teachers] were using this profession to get rich, then this is not the place, and teachers will tell you that," said Hite No, to get rich, you have to aspire to be superintendent. Special place in hell for the rich who steal from those making so much less.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2013 12:14 pm
The PFT should have just proposed a one year extension which would include a pay freeze, but let healthcare stay put. As in the past, Philly teachers are treated like second- class professionals. All districts in the other four counties surrounding Philly got a modest raise to at least offset their health care premiums. I don't agree with this proposal by "our" union. We are actually getting a pay decrease since more will be taken from paychecks for healthcare. Vote NO. Take a stand now. Otherwise, same bs next year and the year after that, etc., etc. A 3 % is what teachers got (paid for by the PFT H/W fund-not the District) and won't be changed until at least 2015 under this proposal.Keep that in mind.Since 2008,a 6 % total raise within most likely 7 years (if voted yes to PFT leaders proposal) and even less since we will now be paying healthcare cost. Once again, we move further down the food chain in teachers compensation and respect.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2013 12:42 pm
I will absolutely vote no to any concessions, if we do we show weakness. Hopefully our leadership is not this weak and there is a plan in place. If not we need change at the top.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2013 12:24 pm
I'm not taking a pay freeze. I'm a third year teacher and low on the pay scale. If we take a pay freeze I have no hope of making making a decent salary or career. It just makes this a job with no future.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2013 12:29 pm
While I love my job, I feel like I may need to start looking for another job. With the amount of stress we are put under I don't think the plan the PFT has come up with is worth it for me and my family. I will be bringing home less money and doing more work. My principal has already asked what each of us plan to do to make the school year run smoothly.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2013 12:36 pm

Bring signs and banners with the word NO on it, ready for September 2. Maybe we won't have to use them but it will stop Jordan from pretending he has our support for concessions in a voice vote.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2013 12:08 pm
Could jerry jordan be utilizing the "churn" philosophy to rally his members for an epic membership meeting where he really wants his members to vote no and move to strike. Since leadership can not directly initiate a strike? Either way the entire notion of all of this is political and completely unacceptable. Teachers need fair wages to raise families and I will in no way vote for any sort of concession, I do not care about the economic political bs, bring the fight to them.
Submitted by Teachin' (not verified) on August 28, 2013 1:53 pm
No. He's bucked to the SDP. He's done this before. He will not allow membership to initiate any action and he will declare the contract ratified in spite of a deafening "No vote."
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2013 1:26 pm
THEN ALL YOU TEACHERS NEED TO BAND TOGETHER AND GET HIM OUSTED. CONTACT THE NLRB AND SYA HE IS MISREPRESENTING THE TEACHERS. ITS SIMPLE BUT I NEVER SEE ANYBODY DO IT. GET A MASS PETITION SIGNED AND CALL FOR HIS RESIGNATION AS PFT PRESIDENT. ALL TEACHERS WAKE UP--ITS YOUR UNION !!!!
Submitted by Vicki (not verified) on August 28, 2013 1:50 pm
No. He doesn't care what membership thinks. If you were at the last vote re: the contract, you'd know he'll say it's ratified whether membership agrees or not.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2013 1:26 pm
I think so. He knew damned well the district would say no. he put it out there to gain public support for the union - a good faith offer, and to rally his members. Hite responded within minutes. This was a tactical ploy on behalf of Jordan. A good move, I might add.
Submitted by Anonymously Anon (not verified) on August 28, 2013 1:02 pm
It's not a tactical ploy. It's meeting the district half way and still being turned down. It just means we're weaker and they think we'll allow AT LEAST as much as Jordan decided we should give back in concessions.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2013 1:42 pm
I HOPE YOUR RIGHT!!! I REALLY DO. IF NOT, NLRB AND HAVE HIM REMOVED FOR MISREPRESENTATION.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on August 28, 2013 1:53 pm
You may be right. I have a gut feeling this isn't over yet. Maybe, it's wishful thinking; maybe not,
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2013 1:45 pm
THATS THE PROBLEM!!!! IT SHOULDNT BE A VOICE VOTE> IT SHOULD BE BALLOT VOTE. YOU TEACHERS NEED TO TAKE A STAND AND OUST HIM IF HE PULLS ONE OVER ON YOU AGAIN.
Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2013 1:40 pm
Be prepared to go ABSOFREAKENLUTELY ballistic if the union leadership dares to attempt to get away with a voice vote. We have seen this before (you know the senior career teachers the corporate hedgefund reformers wish would just go away). PFT union members: the rank and file is the union, not the leadership. Be on your guard. This is no time to think you can sit back and be taken care of by daddy. Ain't happenin.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2013 1:35 pm
Email Jerry Jordan, jjordan@pft.org, and let him know he caved again.Not a good propsal.A normal "union" with strong leadership, doesn't make wage freeze concessions first for it's members and add salt to the wound by saying and while you are at it ,pay healthcare cost-- further decreasing your pay. Email addressess: jjordan@pft.org execoffice@pft.org
Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2013 1:51 pm
'In the atrium at School District headquarters, downstairs from the SRC meeting, PFT community-engagement liaison Evette Jones was galvanizing a crowd of angry teachers. “Ladies and gentlemen, this is war. Let’s turn this city upside down!” ' --August 15 Get your white flags out and bend over.--August 28
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2013 1:55 pm
Hope Jordan is using strategy. He can't come out and say strike. This may be a way to rally the teachers because he knows you'll vote NO. If that's his strategy it's good!!!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2013 1:11 pm
I agree. When has the PFT negotiated in public?
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on August 28, 2013 2:02 pm
I think you may be right; at least I hope you are. Something doesn't seem right about this.
Submitted by Headstart teacher (not verified) on August 28, 2013 3:47 pm
On Philly.com it says there will be NO strike vote just a vote on the proposed contract offer. Huh????? This is too fishy, what's going on Jerry - why tip your hand?
Submitted by Education Grad ... on August 28, 2013 8:10 pm
If enough PFT members insist on a strike, there can be a strike. But we need to bring our signs and our shouting voices. WE CANNOT BACK DOWN! THIS IS FOR OUR PROFESSION, OURSELVES, AND OUR STUDENTS!!! EGS
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2013 3:35 pm
I wonder - does the Broad Foundation or other private investors contribute to Hite's salary? If so, how much and who? Is he receiving additional money provided by Broad et al outside of what is reported as his superintendent's salary? What about his benefits?
Submitted by Annonym (not verified) on August 28, 2013 3:34 pm
He serves on other boards - I assume his time isn't donated...
Submitted by Annonym (not verified) on August 28, 2013 3:43 pm
He serves on other boards - I assume his time isn't donated...
Submitted by Annonym (not verified) on August 28, 2013 3:05 pm
He serves on other boards - I assume his time isn't donated...
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2013 3:28 pm
I work at a Promise Academy. I found without warning that my hours would be cut. And Hite tells me I didn't get into this profession to make money? I went to my school to make additional money. I am a single parent. Hite wants to take away from my kids to give to district students? He just went too far. I am an amazing teacher. Evidenced by my record. I need elective surgery. In the past I would have never done this during the school year, to my students. Well, I just scheduled it. If this is how I am treated after many years of loyal? service - right back at you Hite! If you had treated me respectfully I would have helped you succeed. Now I, and my colleagues, will be sure you leave Philadelphia, soon, labeled a failure as many of those before you. You can take money, benefits from us Hite, but you won't win. We will when you are asked to leave with your tail between your legs.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2013 4:28 pm
The timing of your surgery does not affect Hite in the least. The only ones who will suffer will be your students and colleagues! Thanks for your loyal service!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2013 4:40 pm
The timing of your surgery does not affect Hite in the least. The only ones who will suffer will be your students and colleagues! Thanks for your loyal service!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2013 8:58 pm
Your decision to have surgery in the middle of the school year is immature and short sighted. It essentially amounts to an adult temper tantrum, and the only ones being hurt are your students! I hope you reconsider.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2013 4:40 pm
This superintendent has presented NO educational agenda. It's all about $$$. But he is NOT demanding more money from Corbett who has grossly underfunded education across the state, particularly in poor urban districts. He has not acknowledged that the prior superintendents under SRC monitoring and state control have pillaged the district and promoted the over-proliferation of privately run charters at the expense of public schools.He continues to spout the party line of Nutter and Corbett "that PFT needs to share the sacrifice, however the teacher and staff share is so much greater than that of the city or state" Since Hite's arrival he has said and done NOTHING to rally and support his workforce. He has frequently repeated in the media a very negative comment he supposedly heard from people talking about the SDP. He repeatedly speaks disparingly of teachers. What true leader does this? Does leading a public school district not make one a public servant? He and the SRC have been absolutely unresponsive to the public outcry. What interest would he have in basically being a "closer" in this drama and running the district into the ground unless he was receiving some benefi?. Did he get the job because he is a "company" man? He has sacrificed the staff and, more importantly, the children of Philadelphia by becoming an active participant in this so-called reform effort which really amounts to institutional neglect.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2013 5:02 pm
Where is the PFT meeting on Sept. 2nd? Is it open to the general public in the interest of transparency?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2013 5:30 pm
The meeting is at the Liacouras Center. It is not open to the general public, it is a Union meeting for Union members only. This is not different from any other Union meeting we have had in the past.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on August 28, 2013 8:57 pm
For the record, Philadelphia School Partnership meetings aren't open to the public either.
Submitted by Annonym (not verified) on August 28, 2013 8:52 pm
Many SRC meetings are also in "executive session" so they are not public. To participate in a union meeting, you must be a member. Most organizations have separate meeting for members - religious groups, community groups, etc.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on August 28, 2013 8:05 pm
If the PFT strikes, PFT members won't look bad. Dr. Hite is asking teachers and other PFT members take a pay cut while also... - working a longer school day, - having more students in a classroom, and - having no school counselor. Asking teachers and other staff to make such concessions is unreasonable and profoundly disrespectful. I saw a sign at the SRC meeting protest in May which summed up my feelings about Dr. Hite perfectly: Disrespect taken to a new Hite EGS
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 29, 2013 10:14 pm
Strike, for God sake. The public is still too complacent. WE need to wake up and shake up folks.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 29, 2013 12:48 pm
Someone needs to expose the Mayor's Wife's hand in this... and how much money the Nutter's stand to make through Charter School Creation this year, and for the next five years. And investigate all other Pennsylvania Politicians with Connections to Charter School Companies...Mr. Williams, Mr. Evans, etc.... as well as Mr. Nutter's good friend Mr. Gamble. The Corruption goes high up the food chain indeed. Investigate the Finances of All Philadelphia Charter School Operators...Follow the money, you will find the Crooks ! No Concessions ! No Extortion !
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 29, 2013 8:26 pm
I think that you're onto something. Please, someone (Dan from City Paper, Helen, Rich, Lisa, EGS) do some digging and start to connect the dots before it's too late!
Submitted by tom-104 on August 29, 2013 2:35 pm
Someone has begun the exposure. http://citypaper.net/article.php?Charter-operator-owed-its-schools-milli...
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 29, 2013 8:53 pm
Is there anyone out there who can explain to me why Ed Rendell didn't do a damn thing about the SRC when he was in office for 8 years? Seriously. No we have Superintendent Jay Z Doppleganger around on top of every billionaire on the planet goading Tom Corbitch to dismantle the PFT. Thanks Ed, maybe your the nation of Wussies. You should have disbanded the SRC, Serious Rip OFF Commission, when you had the chance.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 29, 2013 8:13 pm
sweet we can still afford Knudsen!
Submitted by katasha (not verified) on November 20, 2014 8:55 pm

There is nothing mediocre about any of those schools. People have left because the schools have been red-lined and because the city has relied upon a business model to run schools with the idea that an institution that works with human beings can somehow make a uniform product, Casquette Jordan

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