A Philadelphia teacher protests budget cuts during a rally outside School District Headquarters (Photo by Solomon Jones)

SRC in denial after judicial order

THIS WEEK, Judge Nina Wright Padilla issued a restraining order to prevent the School Reform Commission from unilaterally canceling its contract with its teachers.

This represented a small victory for the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, which recently filed a series of legal challenges in Commonwealth Court.

[blocktext align=”right”]The PFT’s legal wrangling came as no surprise to a lot of people. Jordan came right out and said that the PFT would be taking the district to court over the contract cancellation when it was announced on Oct. 6. But my guess is that this move came as a total surprise to at least two people: Superintendent William Hite and SRC Chair Bill Green.[/blocktext]

In addition to asking that the case be moved to Philadelphia Common Pleas Court, the PFT has filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board accusing the SRC of bargaining in bad faith.

“We feel that the SRC’s attack last week was not only cowardly and disrespectful, but lacking legal merit,” PFT President Jerry Jordan said in a statement.

The PFT’s legal wrangling came as no surprise to a lot of people. Jordan came right out and said that the PFT would be taking the district to court over the contract cancellation when it was announced on Oct. 6.

But my guess is that this move came as a total surprise to at least two people: Superintendent William Hite and SRC Chair Bill Green.

Why?

Because denial is more than a river in Egypt…and when it comes to its relationship with the PFT, these two men are in a perpetual state of denial.

I can see the problem. Why can’t the SRC?

When a group of people that you’re supposed to come to an agreement with spend an entire night telling you point blank “I don’t trust you,” and yet you think that this group of people would rather deal with you directly than take you to court, that’s the only conclusion I can come to.

Teachers, students and people from other unions were out in force on Thursday for the SRC meeting, the first one held since the entity decided on Oct. 6 to void the PFT’s contract.

The two entities had been negotiating since the teacher’s contract expired in August 2013, but because they couldn’t agree the SRC, using the provision in Act 46 that says the SRC can void a contract if it feels that the district’s financial condition dictates it.

After thousands of teachers, parents and their supporters shut down a section of North Broad Street through protests, many of them headed into SRC chambers to make their voices heard. About 60 people signed up to make official comments.

“We are not indentured servants,” Jordan told the board. “It is an absolute lie for the SRC to say that we weren’t willing to negotiate about health care and weren’t willing to share in the district’s sacrifice.”

“When you voided the contract with the teachers, you voided the contract with the community,” said Jesse Epps, a former sanitation worker in Memphis who marched with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. “Families and children are calling on you to reconsider your actions.”

Even the students got involved.

“Our teachers deserve the right to a fair contract,” said Alfredo Practico of Masterman Middle School. “Our teachers, through the toughest of times, stood tall for our benefit. It’s been taught to us that it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game. What are you showing us now?”

But many more made unofficial comments.

During a presentation for Parent Appreciation Month, audience members shouted, “You don’t appreciate parents!” A presentation for the Home Depot Seniors of the Month was met with “Better make sure that the check doesn’t bounce!”

[blocktext align=”left”]After thousands of teachers, parents and their supporters shut down a section of North Broad Street through protests, many of them headed into SRC chambers to make their voices heard. About 60 people signed up to make official comments.[/blocktext]

Then there were the chants of “What do we want?! Fair funding! When do we want it?! Now!!!” that seemed to break out, and the accusations on the part of teachers that the SRC’s decision was part of a plan launched by Gov. Tom Corbett and SRC Chair Green to save both of their jobs.

Add the PFT flyer that said, pretty specifically, “We don’t trust you!” and you get a picture of where there might be an impasse.

So after the meeting was over, I asked Hite and Green how a contract could be achieved with a group of people who don’t believe you capable of bargaining with them in good faith.

After Chairman Green took a minute to ask me who I was, something that I found kinda funny considering I interviewed him more than once when he was a City Councilman, he said that the teachers would rather deal with the SRC than deal with the courts.

Superintendent Hite echoed those sentiments.

“At the end of the day, regardless of what happens in the courts, a negotiated settlement is better,” he said. “The teachers would rather have that.”

That might be the case.

But the PFT filing would indicate that they’re not going to wait for a sit down…

Especially since a trip to the SRC’s Perpetual State of Denial takes a lot of gas.


denise clay 2Denise Clay is a veteran journalist who is an active member of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Black Journalists

 

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