The contract for nearly 3,000 Pittsburgh Public School Teachers and paraprofessionals expired Friday. Negotiations began in the fall between the district and the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers.
Union president Nina Esposito-Visgitis said she’s disappointed, but hopeful for a contract by the start of the school year.
“We’re going to have a new school year, we have a lot of great initiatives with community schools, (Career and Technical Education), early childhood," she said. "I don’t want any distractions because we have a lot of work to do.”
Until there’s an agreement, teachers will operate under the terms of the previous contract meaning the district will maintain wages, hours and other conditions of employment that existed before the agreement expired.
In Philadelphia, teachers have worked under an expired contract for nearly four years. The district and union announced a tentative agreement last month.
Esposito-Visgitis said salary and health care coverage have held up negotiations. She said it’s important to ensure the jobs are competitive in order to attract and retain effective teachers.
Superintendent Anthony Hamlet said he’s committed to ensuring the district remains fiscally sound and is the first choice for students, families and teachers. He pointed to the recent release of the district’s five-year strategic plan that emphasizes students should be the main focus.
“In the coming school year, students will see much of this planning come to life, with math and reading coaches at every school, more librarians and nurses at schools," he said. "We’re launching five community schools and ensuring organized professional development for all teachers. The Federation has been extremely supportive of this student-focused plan, and we're optimistic that our strong working relationship will continue."
In the past, the district has penned two- and three-year contracts with teachers. What Esposito-Visgitis said was the first five-year contract in recent memory expired in 2015. The union and district agreed to extend it until 2017 with leadership turnover.