PHILADELPHIA, Sept. 3 (UPI) -- Philadelphia teachers voted to keep negotiating on their expired contract but remained defiant in the face of district calls for pay cuts as high as 13 percent.
Thousands of the district's 15,000-member Philadelphia Federation of Teachers union showed up on the Temple University campus Monday to hear local and national union representatives discuss the options before them in a tense negotiation with the city's school board over steep pay and benefit cuts and changes to work rules that would allow the district to reassign teachers regardless of seniority.
The teachers' contract expired Sunday but after listening to union representatives, rank-and-file members voted to continue negotiations, the Philadelphia Inquirer said.
The school district, backed by Mayor Michael Nutter, have sought pay cuts of between 5 and 13 percent, a greater contribution toward employees' health insurance, a longer school year and changes to work rules to allow teachers to be transferred between schools without respect to their seniority.
"PFT members will not take a 5, 10, or 13 percent pay cut," PFT president Jerry Jordan told members.
In response, the teachers have offered to forego all raises for one year and make some cost-saving changes to their health insurance plans.
The district's response: Not enough.
The teachers' offer falls "far short of the $103 million in recurring savings our students need and does not include necessary educational reforms," the district said in a statement.
The district is responsible for educating 136,000 children in the city.
The labor dispute has national implications for urban districts facing high drop-out rates and struggling to meet higher standards with less money, officials said.
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, who was at the meeting, said the nation is watching Philadelphia.
"This is a metaphor for how a country, a state, and a city actually treats its most vulnerable charges," she said.