In a news conference on Wednesday, Jerry Jordan of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers said he will ask his 16,000 members to accept a pay freeze and start contributing to their health coverage.
This comes as negotiations intensify with the school district, which is calling for $103 million in givebacks from the teachers union, including 13% pay cuts.
"This is a negotiation, a process, so what I'm saying is that I know we can find savings when we look at our health care benefits, so we're going to do that and find savings," Jordan said.
Classes are set to begin for 136,000 Philadelphia students on September 9th with skeleton staffing at the schools.
The district has a $50 million promise from City Hall to bring back 1,000 of the near 4,000 people laid off in June.
Jordan said his members will go for a wage freeze, but not pay cuts.
"We need to quickly find a way to restore those services to kids. We just cannot continue to inch along and think that we are going to have staff and buildings back by September 9th," said Jordan.
In a written statement issued Wednesday, school district spokesman Fernando Gallardo said the proposal by the union "appears to fall well short" of the $103 million in cuts they are looking for.
"We clearly have a ways to go on both economics as well as on important educational reforms that will provide the type of learning environments our children deserve. We look forward to continuing the collective bargaining process," the statement continued.
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter also said the proposal fell short. He also criticized the union for letting months pass without any proposals to address the schools' latest financial crunch.
In addition to the $103 sought from the teacher's union, the district is also seeking $30 million in concessions from other unions.