ROUND 2 of the School Reform Commission vs. the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers is headed to Commonwealth Court.

About a week after Common Pleas Judge Nina Wright-Padilla temporarily blocked the SRC and the school district from imposing changes to health-care benefits for PFT members, the judge yesterday made the stay final. The district now will appeal the decision to the Commonwealth Court, which it had hoped would hear the case all along.

Both sides hailed the move as a victory.

Ralph Teti, an attorney for the PFT, reasoned that the injunction supports the union's position that the SRC does not have the authority to unilaterally cancel the union's contract and impose the changes. "The question then becomes: As a matter of law, will that be affirmed on appeal? That's why we're [going to] the Commonwealth Court."

Meanwhile, the district claimed that yesterday's decision fast-tracks an appeal on "key legal issues that will have a direct impact on our schools and students this year" and "accelerates the timing for resolution."

No date has been announced for when Commonwealth Court will hear the case.

When the SRC voted Oct. 6 to cancel the pact, the district anticipated saving about $54 million this school year - $43.8 million in operating funds and $10 million in federal funds - by imposing the changes on Dec. 15. Because the court ruling now delays implementation of those changes until the case is resolved, that money is in question.

District spokesman Fernando Gallard said that $15 million distributed to schools this week would not be affected, but that two additional installments planned for 2015 would likely be reduced.

"For every day that we delay, there's going to be less and less savings that we achieve," Gallard said. "Right now we can't say by how much, but it definitely is going to be less than we projected."

As a stipulation between the parties regarding the injunction, the union agreed to hold off on an unfair-labor-practice complaint and an arbitration request it had filed.

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