Philadelphia teachers union approve new contract

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Philadelphia teachers union approve new contract. Dann Cuellar reports during Action News at 11 p.m. on June 19, 2017. (WPVI)

It's being called a breakthrough.

After four years without a contract, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers has approved a new three year deal with the school district.

As members of the teachers union flocked to the Liacouras Center to cast their votes, it was clear the teachers felt they had waited long enough and were going to sign off on the contract.

"It's great. It's long overdue, we needed it," classroom assistant Jandell Jackson said.

And so the announcement from the union leadership was hardly a surprise.

"I'm very happy to report that the membership of the PFT ratified the tentative agreement," union president Jerry Jordan said.

The deal with 12,000 teachers, counselors and other staff members offers teachers pay raises in each of the three years of the deal. The union president says it falls short in some areas, but they went for it anyway.

"The question became do we reach a settlement? Is it a half loaf worth something or do you take no load?" Jordan said.

The pact also offers paybacks for those whose pay levels had been frozen.

"We're really excited about it actually, we can't wait to start the new contract because we've been frozen for so long." Teacher Ben DiBartolo said.

"I'm really happy with it. I think it's not perfect, but I don't think it was ever going to be perfect, but I think it's the best we're going to get," music teacher Colin Sharp said.

After years of negotiations that came up empty, frustrated educators had taken to the streets last month to protest the lingering impasse and five years without a raise.

"I'm just happy that we are beyond the five years of the waiting period so just happy to get something on the table," teacher Maisha Bradley said.

"It's more than we've had so I'm happy for the younger teachers who haven't had a raise in four or five years," teacher Jan Smith said.

The deal will cost the district $395-million, much more than officials had budgeted over the course of the contract.

Superintendent Dr. William Hite says the deal offers an important component - stability.

"Stability means that we have teachers who are not looking to go to other places; stability means we can focus intently on improving teaching and learning," Hite said.

Mayor Jim Kenney released the following statement on the vote taken by PFT members to ratify a new contract:

"I thank members of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers for their approval of the contract. I know full well that throughout this long and difficult process, you have remained dedicated to the single most important matter: educating our city's children. While I know this new contract does not make you entirely whole, I am confident that teachers, administrators and families will make greater strides in improving how our children learn and thrive in Philadelphia's public schools. When we invest in our kids, it benefits every Philadelphian."

So how will the new contract be paid for? It will require additional funds from the city and state or there could be layoffs down the road.
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