Layoffs go forward, PFT case goes to arbitration

Superintendent Arlene C. Ackerman at a recent press conference, just before layoff notices first went out. (David Swanson / Staff Photographer)

The Philadelphia School District and the teachers union agreed to drop a court case today and go straight to arbitration, and as a result, most of the 1,600 teachers who got pink slips earlier this month will be laid off on July 1.

There had been a temporary order halting the layoffs until a judge heard the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers' case, but that was effectively lifted this morning with Common Pleas Court Judge Idee C. Fox ordering the case to arbitration. 

The PFT argues that the district may not exempt teachers from the district's so-called Promise Academies - overhauled schools with extra resources - from layoffs.  The district believes it can.

For now, exempted from the July 1 layoffs are 174 Promise Academy teachers who were exempted but otherwise would have been laid off because of their low seniority, and 174 teachers from non-Promise Academy schools whose jobs would not be touched if the Promise Academy teachers were laid off.  Follow that?  Essentially, 348 teachers' jobs are safe for now but potentially in limbo, based on what the arbitrator says.

Ralph Teti, an attorney for the PFT, said the arbitration will happen "as quickly as possible," and the judge's order calls for "expedited arbitration."  Hopefully the case will move forward in the next few weeks, Teti said, and will definitely be settled before school begins.

"As far as we're concerned, we're satisfied," Teti said.  "I'm very confident of our case."

PFT president Jerry Jordan said he was "very happy" about the development.  "If you're going to lay off people, they have to be laid off correctly," Jordan said. 

Philadelphia School District attorneys declined to comment immediately but said the communications office would have a statement later today.

The rest of the layoffs - central office staff and non-teaching school support personnel - were not affected by temporary hold on layoffs and will be laid off as scheduled on July 1.

Are you one of the 348 teachers whose jobs are now in limbo?  I'm hoping to talk to some of you for a print story.  Reach out directly at, or by phone at 215-854-5146.

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