PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — While the clock is ticking, there is no movement on the impasse between Pittsburgh Public Schools and the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers.
They’ll continue negotiations on Friday. But, before that, the union’s executive board will decide whether to call a strike.
Even if there is a yes vote Thursday, a strike won’t even be a consideration until after both sides sit down at the bargaining table Friday.
It has been more than four decades since teachers in the Pittsburgh Public School District have left the classroom for the picket lines. But after a year and a half of ongoing contract negotiations with the district, strike might be what comes next.
“We want our parents and community to know we are going to do everything we can to avoid that,” said Nina Esposito-Visgitis, PFT President.
“The teachers and other rogue groups, they work for the district, they are my employees. So one of the things I want them to know is that I want them to be happy. I want them to understand I want to get them a fair contract. But I also have to be fiscally prudent with taxpayer dollars as well,” said Dr. Anthony Hamlet, PPS Superintendent.
On Monday, union members voted to authorize their executive board to call for a strike.
On Thursday, the executive board will make that decision.
However, even if the majority votes yes, nothing will happen until after one last attempt to resolve things on Friday.
The order of things seems a little backwards.
“Yes, yeah, we thought so too. We were anxious. We had two days at the state mediator’s office over two weeks ago. And we were anxious to keep things going even though we did send out the strike votes. But they wanted to wait until after,” said Esposito-Visgitis.
“We don’t make the decisions when they authorize or called a strike, they do. We only pick the date that we are going to have the next bargaining session. And that was mutually approved, so I am not sure where that misconception came from,” said Dr. Hamlet.
According to the district, there are two main unresolved issues:
1. Principals’ autonomy
2. Teacher churn
Currently, teachers are allowed to override the principal on class schedules and teaching assignments. And, in schools where the need is highest, with poverty rates as high as 90 percent, staff turnover is nearly 30 percent.
What is clear is that both sides want to come to a resolution for the sake of the children.
Forty-eight hours’ notice must be given to the district when a strike is called.
After Friday’s bargaining session is the soonest a strike could possibly be called. That would mean the teachers would not be in the classroom on Monday.