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Philadelphia Teachers Walk Away From $100 Million Deal

Philadelphia teachers' union leaders have walked away from a $100 million deal that would have restored salary "step" increases and given raises to teachers already at the top of the pay scale, reports The Philadelphia Inquirer. 

The deal was pulled before union members were allowed to weigh in. The deal breaker seems to have been the exclusion of retroactive pay for the years that educators, who haven't seen raises in four years and who have been without a contract for three years, went without raises or step increases. The deal would have also required teachers to start paying for a portion of their health-care premiums.

"This offer has no recognition of the years that people have sacrificed," Jerry Jordan, the president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, told the newspaper. "They have saved millions on the backs of our educators."

But William R. Hite, Jr., the superintendent of the financially struggling district, told the Inquirer, that there just isn't any more money: "If we had more money, we'd be offering more money."

While the district's financial outlook has been improving, officials still project a $500 million deficit over the next five years, a figure that doesn't even take into account the proposed $100 million deal with teachers.

At the same time, Philadelphia politicians and school officials have been debating how to deal with an ongoing teacher shortage in the city.

Jordan contends the new deal wouldn't have helped that. 

"This doesn't offer any incentive for teachers to stay in the city of Philadelphia," said Jordan. "It really is disappointing and shows that they don't really care about the teachers."

Philadelphia Councilwoman Helen Gym, who ran on a platform that highlighted the challenges facing the city's schools, struck a similar note.

"Retaining teachers is key to our work, and we must pay people what they deserve and ensure they are working under a fair contract. Otherwise, we will continue to grapple with more and more teacher vacancies," Gym, who chairs the council's committee on children and youth, said in a statement.

According to Gym, more than 6,000 of the district's 135,000 students don't have a permanent teacher. The deal would also have offered bonuses to teachers who sign up to work in the city's hardest-to-staff schools.

Jordan said the PFT has made a counterproposal but hasn't disclosed details of the offer.

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