A judge has temporarily stopped the Philadelphia school district from forcing teachers to contribute to their healthcare costs.
Common Pleas Court Judge Nina Wright Padilla issued a temporary injunction earlier this week after hearing four hours of testimony. The ruling prevents the School Reform Commission from rolling out changes it voted on that would cancel the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers’ contract and require union members to pay a portion of their health care costs beginning this December.
The PFT requested the injunction to ensure no changes to their benefits went into effect while the courts decide if the SRC has the legal authority to ask union members to pay.
“The judge’s decision, we’re pleased with it,” PFT president Jerry Jordan said moments after Padilla issued the order. “We hope it will end here, but we’re pretty sure it won’t.”
However, according to district spokesman Fernando Gallard, the SRC intends to appeal the ruling in Commonwealth Court. A statement has been released by the district expressing their disappointment in the decision.
“The School District expects to ultimately prevail in the courts and will pursue this matter forcefully, for the cause is urgent and the children of Philadelphia cannot continue waiting,” the statement said.
The new changes would require the 11,500 union members to contribute between 10% and 13% of the cost of their medical plans, beginning on December 15, which relates to between $21 and $200 each month, depending on salary, type of coverage, and several other factors. Currently, members receive these benefits free of charge.
According to the union, the two sides must go to arbitration prior to any changes being made. The parties have been in negotiations for more than 21 months with no end in sight.
SRC officials said they made the changes under the powers of Act 46, state legislation from 2001 which gives the commission the power to oversee the city’s school system.
The district went on to mention that the charges would save the $200 million over the next 4 years. That money would be put into obtaining “crucial resources for the children of Philadelphia.” Just last week, $15 million was released to district principals.
According to Assistant Superintendent Cheryl Logan, the schools will use that money in the hiring of counselors, teachers and other staff, as well as for the purchase of materials and supplies.
District representatives say the injunction could prevent an additional $15 million from reaching schools in the beginning of 2015, as well as $13.8 million in April.
Union leaders across the country are paying close attention to the outcome of the case, fearing that other districts will choose to the same in the future.
The district is currently “evaluating the impact” that the injunction will have on area schools.