Philly teachers: District windfall should mean new contract

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The Philadelphia School District stands to receive $65 million annually in new money, thanks to the city’s reassessment of commercial properties.


District teachers, who have gone without a contract for almost four years and without a raise for almost five, think they know just how to use that revenue stream: get them a new deal.

Backed by the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, educators are taking to Twitter, emailing and calling Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. and the School Reform Commission, demanding that the district put its money where its mouth is.


“Everybody says, ‘If we had more money, we would love to give you a contract,” said Kathie Tomczuk, a 14-year veteran teacher at Farrell Elementary in the Northeast. “Now, they have more money. Did they mean what they said?”

Tomczuck tweeted at Hite, the SRC and Mayor Kenney on Monday to get her point across.

The school district had no immediate comment, but the PFT rejected the district’s last contract proposal – a deal that would cost the district about $150 million, it said. It countered with a deal that would cost the school system $400 million more than it had offered.





Both sides have called the other’s offers nonstarters.

Jerry Jordan, the PFT president, was emphatic in an interview.

“I think that the entire $65 million needs to go help fund a PFT contract,” said Jordan. “It isn’t enough to fund the entire contract, but it should help us get closer to settling.”

District officials last week said they would use the new city money to help plug a projected $900 million budget deficit in its five-year plan.

Teacher Kelsey Green is crossing her fingers.

She’s in her fourth year of teaching, but is frozen at starting teacher’s salary. With no raise in that time and $800 monthly in student-loan payments, she is unable to move out of her parents’ house.



“I have so much debt, and I still have to save for retirement,” said Green. “My friends who are teaching in the suburbs make $20,000 more than I do. I can’t move forward in my life at all.”

Green, the daughter of a Philadelphia teacher, doesn’t want to leave the district, but she has applied to other districts. She can’t afford the alternative – especially when new teachers hired by the district are paid for their years of experience and advanced degrees and she’s not.

“We get emails saying, ‘Thanks for all you do,’” Green said. “Well, how about a contract?”

Bryan Steinberg got tired of waiting. He submitted his letter of resignation Monday. He’s leaving the district not for another school system, but for work as a server and bartender. With that job plus some marketing work for his parents’ business, he’ll earn more money.

He loves connecting with students as a high-school English teacher at the Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush in the Northeast, but no contract has worn on him, causing a “constant state of financial anxiety and distress,” Steinberg said.

“I never thought I would become a rich man teaching high school, but I also never thought that I would be a near destitute peasant eight years later,” Steinberg wrote in his resignation letter. “The money owed and promised to me five years ago is over $20,000, under our collective bargaining agreement, but I will not sacrifice my dignity to an employer that is slowly and methodically starving its teachers into attrition.”




Steinberg is paid as a fourth-year teacher with a bachelor’s degree, $54,365 vs. the $67,778 he would be making by now if the district hadn’t frozen him at his 2012 pay.





















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