Philly School District agrees to settlement on teacher layoffs

Seniority alone determines layoffs in the Philadelphia School District, according to a settlement reached today by the district and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.

The settlement represents a victory for the union avoids an arbitrator’s decision on 174 layoffs.

The district had tried to exempt teachers in its Promise Academies, or turnaround schools, from layoffs. The PFT, the district’s largest union, maintained that ran afoul of their contract, and had sued to block the district from skipping over Promise Academy teachers in layoffs.  That lawsuit was dropped when the parties agreed to go to arbitration.

The district laid off about 1,500 teachers on June 30, though about 300 will be called back this week. Layoffs are painful, PFT President Jerry T. Jordan has said, but must be done correctly.

“The PFT and the School District of Philadelphia arrived at a settlement of Promise Academy layoff arbitration when the district agreed that seniority would be used in the reassignment of Promise Academy teachers,” Jordan said in a statement. “The district’s decision affirms the language in the contract between the PFT and the district.”

Jordan blasted Superintendent Arlene Ackerman for attempting to skip over Promise Academy teachers, who tend to have less seniority than teachers in other schools.

“As a result of an arbitrary decision by the superintendent to violate the contract, she brought the reassignment of 1,335 teachers to a halt and caused needless uncertainty to hundreds of dedicated teachers whose employment status has been in limbo all summer,” Jordan said. “With less than three weeks in which to properly staff schools, many of whose staffs were decimated by layoffs, forced transfers and retirements, the district made the right decision to proceed according to the terms of the contract and move forward to ensure that teachers are in place and ready to teach their students when schools open on September 6.”

In a separate statement, district spokeswoman Jamilah Fraser said: "The PFT and SDP have agreed to withdraw the Promise Academy seniority layoff issue from arbitration. Teachers assigned to Promise Academies will be reassigned based on their seniority."