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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Teachers in the Pittsburgh Public Schools District are planning to go on strike on Friday.
According to a statement by The Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, Superintendent Dr. Anthony Hamlet has been served with a strike notification.
The notification states more than 3,000, “professional, paraprofessional and technical clerical workers, will go on strike starting Friday, March 2.”
Per Act 88, the school district must be given notice of a strike 48 hours in advance.
“We provided the district with a 96-hour notice in order to provide extra time for our students’ parents to secure childcare for their children, our students, and to provide the parties’ with sufficient time to reach tentative agreement on new contracts for the three bargaining units prior to the commencement of the strike. We are hopeful that that extra time will allow the Federation and the District to work together to reach a fair agreement that both recognizes the professionalism and hard work of our members and serves the needs of our students and school system,” Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers President Nina Esposito-Visgitis said.
Last week, the union and Pittsburgh Public School District met for nine straight hours without a resolution. At that time, the union directed its members to make contingencies, like selecting shifts for picketing.
“It’s a basic principal’s right in the building as being the one accountable, and the instruction leading the building to make scheduling decisions in the best interest of children in the building. We’ve given all the items – nine items over, we’ve agreed on health care. So again, I’m going to say this, this is not about health care, this is not about benefits, this is not about compensation or wages. It’s about, this is about the principal being able to make the best decisions for the children in scheduling teachers in the master schedule,” Dr. Hamlet said.
The union disagrees with Dr. Hamlet’s comments on the progress made in negotiations.
“Since the beginning of these negotiations over eighteen months ago, the PFT and the District have reached a small number of signed tentative agreements on proposed terms. None of these items includes salary, healthcare, equity for early childhood teachers, transfers, athletic coaches, or any of the other items outlined for members in the Fact-Finder’s report which was posted for public review in October, 2017,” Esposito-Visgitis said.
Both sides are under a gag order, but district Solicitor Ira Weiss took issue with the union making those contingency plans.
He said in a statement: “Should the union wish to tell its teachers to walk off of the job, I believe the public, once made aware of the issue that they are striking over, which isn’t about teacher pay, benefits or performance, but the ability – as a district – to put students first, will not be on their side.”
Sources say the sides are at a stalemate over the ability of principals to make teacher assignments within individual schools — with neither side budging.
Thousands of students will be left without anything to do, so several organizations are stepping up to help parents by offering a place for their children to go during the strike.
The YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh is going to open the Thelma Lovette and Allegheny branches for kids over the age of 13 for day-long drop-offs with gym and pool access. Other branches will open to kids already involved in Y programming.
“We have an opportunity to stretch out our normal out-of-school time care,” Kevin Bolding with the YMCA said. “So any kids, any families, who are already in our existing programs, we are able to offer full day care for them.”
The Boys and Girls Clubs of Western PA are opening two of their locations — Shadyside and Lawrenceville — for day-long activities. If you’re already a member, you can come at a reduced rate, and in Lawrenceville, they’ll be offering free breakfasts and lunches during the strike.
Additionally, Citiparks is working with agencies to make sure places that offer free breakfast and lunch during the summer will be open during the strike.