Students of the Philadelphia public school system returned to the classroom this week, even with lingering disagreements between the teachers union and the Pennsylvania Department of Education. After a summer of consolidation and layoffs, things are still in a state of flux.The state of Pennsylvania has overseen the Philadelphia school district since 2001. Enrollment has dropped 23% in the district over that time period. Facing an unsustainable financial future, the state is asking teachers to agree to operational reforms such as a performance-based pay structure, shared health-care costs, and a longer school day. The WSJ reports:
…district leaders are trying to squeeze about $130 million in concessions from labor unions. They want teachers to take a pay cut of about 10%—their average annual salary is about $73,000—and begin to pay a share of health-care premiums. They also want to increase the workday from seven to eight hours. The average teacher workday in the state is 7 hours and 45 minutes.The district is also pressuring the union to switch from a pay structure that awards raises on the basis of advanced degrees and years of service to one that bases them, in part, on classroom performance. Officials also want principals to have more power to decide which teachers get hired and stay in their schools. Now, more-senior teachers can bump less-tenured ones out of jobs, no matter their effectiveness.
At $73,000 per year the average Philadelphia public school teacher makes nearly 25% more than her national counterpart does at $56,069. A 10% pay cut, therefore, would still leave her earning $9,000 more than the national average.Philadelphia isn’t just paying a high premium on its teachers: the school district spends $11,637 per pupil, about $2,000 above the national average. Yet, as the WSJ points out, students in the city’s public schools score below their counterparts in other large cities on both math and reading exams.While district and union leaders try to reconcile their disagreements, students are busy worrying who will write their college recommendations. Seniors at Bodine High School now share a single college counselor with 3,500 other students throughout the district.The teachers have already made some concessions in this fight, but now it looks like both sides are digging in their heels. Philadelphia may have a long fight ahead of it. What is certain, however, is that the students of the Philadelphia public school district are the losers in this ordeal.[Closed school image courtesy of Shutterstock]