Philadelphia teachers will get bonuses, 5% raises in approved contract extension

Jerry Jordan standing at a podium speaking into microphones.
Outgoing Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan said in a Feb. 28 statement that a tentative deal on a one-year contract extension with the city school district will help ease the staffing shortage in the city's schools. The union and the district approved the deal in early March. (Darryl Murphy/The Notebook)

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The Philadelphia Board of Education voted to approve a one-year contract extension for the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers that includes raises, retention bonuses, and more.

The contract was approved unanimously at a meeting Thursday night. The extension “reflects the deep respect we have for all of our PFT members,” Superintendent Tony Watlington said before the board vote.

Watlington emphasized that the extension was agreed to well before the contract expiration date of Aug. 31 and represents a “good faith partnership” with the union. It’s a significant departure for a union and district known for down-to-the-wire negotiations.

He said he expected that collaborative spirit to help with his reform blueprint for the district known as Accelerate Philly.

The district and the teachers union reached a tentative agreement on the contract extension late last month.

District Chief Financial Officer Mike Herbsman said he hoped the contract, which includes a raise and bonuses designed to attract job candidates, would “have a significant and meaningful impact on our ability to recruit and retain teachers.” The district opened the school year with 200 vacancies.

Union membership voted overwhelmingly to ratify the contract Wednesday evening; 84% of those present, or 2,096 people, voted yes, while 16%, or 399 members, voted no. Those who voted against the contract, including Building 21 teacher Eric Hitchner, said the contract didn’t go far enough to secure improved working conditions for teachers.

The contract will cover more than 14,000 district employees, according to Grant-Skinner.

Notably absent from the agreement is anything altering the current sick leave policy, which detractors say punishes teachers for taking their allotted 10 sick days.

Here’s what’s in the new contract extension:

  • All PFT-represented employees — including teachers, paraprofessionals, counselors, and others — will receive a 5% salary increase in September 2024.
  • Employees eligible for “step” increases (raises based on years of experience) will still get those.
  • PFT-represented employees will also receive a “retention and re-engagement bonus” of $1,200 paid by June 2024.
  • The Designated Schools Program — which provides $2,500 bonuses to teachers who work in schools with staffing challenges — will be extended to run through Aug. 30, 2025.
  • Watlington (or another district leader) and a union representative will meet regularly to discuss the superintendent’s five-year strategic plan.

Carly Sitrin is the bureau chief for Chalkbeat Philadelphia. Contact Carly at csitrin@chalkbeat.org.

Dale Mezzacappa is a senior writer for Chalkbeat Philadelphia, where she covers K-12 schools and early childhood education in Philadelphia. Contact Dale at dmezzacappa@chalkbeat.org.

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