Friday, January 11, 2008

School District spin about the strike

I take this with a grain of salt. A strike would be a pain. But, the strike would be short term when contrasted to the major projects and problems that now swirl around the district and the city. We need a Vo Tech High School -- and there is no plan, yet, to get one.

Schenley High School opened 90 years ago. Now it is on the copping block because of some plaster problems due to water damage in the past. Those are big problems -- not a teacher strike of a few weeks.

For Immediate Release Contacts: Lisa Fischetti (412) 622-3603

District Responds to Public Requests for More Disclosure on Contract Talks

Next Bargaining Session Set for Monday, January 14

PITTSBURGH, JANUARY 11, 2008 – In response to numerous public inquiries for disclosing more information about the status of teacher contract talks, Pittsburgh Public Schools is providing comment on the status of contract talks and facts around the key issues being discussed in negotiations with the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers (PFT).

A day-long bargaining session between the School District and the PFT was conducted today through state mediators. The negotiations process began more than one year ago in accordance with bargaining law.

The next bargaining session is scheduled to take place on Monday, January 14. Superintendent Mark Roosevelt and the District's Board members will be available to attend bargaining sessions next week, as appropriate.

"We are doing all we can to not interrupt the school year and the process of improving academic achievement for our children," said Superintendent Mark Roosevelt. "We fully recognize that our teachers and staff are the key to student success and a better school system. It has been and continues to be our goal to reach a contract agreement as soon as possible. We are working very hard to balance the academic and financial challenges of our system throughout the bargaining process so that a strike can be averted," added Roosevelt.

"In my view, a teacher strike would damage the hard work that teachers, administrators and staff have already undertaken in our quest to advance public school education in Pittsburgh. This is a pivotal time for our school system and City as we must make decisions that will have long-term economic and social impacts for our region. The Pittsburgh Promise scholarship program, for example, is a tremendous step in the right direction. There's heightened accountability for performance by principals, who now are all on performance-based contracts. These are important examples of the many things we are doing to set the District on a course for success. We value our teachers and support their right to be fairly compensated. But as I have stated previously, we will not support a contract settlement that would require a tax increase," Roosevelt added.

The key issues or topics being discussed in these contract talks include: (note: these facts do not include any positions on current bargaining discussions)

1. Wages – From 2001 to 2006, there were three contracts reached with annualized wage increases that averaged approximately 3.7%, inclusive of 'step' wage increases. According to Public School Teacher Settlement Data provided by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, average annual salary increases for teachers in the current 2007-08 school year is 3.73% (including step wages) at Pennsylvania school districts with approved contract settlements.

2. Post-retirement healthcare cost – The cost of retiree health care has increased by more than 100%, from $5.3 million in 2004 to a projected $11.8 million in 2007.

3. Length of work day - Teachers in the Pittsburgh Public Schools have one of the shortest work days among all school districts in Pennsylvania. The current work day is 7 hours and 6 minutes.

4. Severance – Severance pay for unused sick leave.

5. Term of contract - The previous three contract settlements were 2.5 years, 2 years and 2 years, respectively.

"We are doing everything we can to help resolve these issues remaining on the table," said Mark Roosevelt. "We're attempting to balance the interests of the District, its teachers, students, parents and taxpayers. I have heard from many parents who are concerned about the prospect of a strike and the safety of their children, particularly in single-parent families where the parent works during school hours," concluded Roosevelt.

Theresa Colaizzi, Chair of the Board's Negotiating Committee, stated, "We must remember the world is very different today compared to 30 years ago when there was a strike in Pittsburgh. Then, many people may have been inconvenienced. In today's world, families will literally be incapacitated if there is a walkout. We recognize the need to settle the contract with the common goal of balancing the community's interest and the District's financial and academic goals," added Colaizzi.

This information and perspective is being shared publicly today as a result of growing public interest in the status and issues surrounding on-going contract talks. For more information and updates about PFT Contract Talks, please visit the District's home page at

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