Pittsburgh Public Schools and the union representing its teachers and paraprofessionals are continuing negotiations as employees begin their fifth month working under a contract that expired at the end of June.
After a year and a half of talks, the parties are now in the middle of the second round of dispute mediation known as fact-finding.
According to the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, the fact-finder completed a report Monday; the details of that report have not been released to the public.
Superintendent Anthony Hamlet declined to comment on specific points of negotiation, but said he wants to make sure teachers have a robust benefits package and an equitable pay scale.
“We want to make sure there are additional elements in there that give them more time in the day to support their professional practice, number one to teach students,” he said. “But also have time to come together to work collaboratively. Also to have their own personal time to read the research and hone their own craft as well.”
Hamlet said the two parties are "closer than they are apart.”
Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers President Nina-Esposito Visgitis was not immediately available for comment. According to a statement from the union, PFT officers and executive board members have reviewed the fact finder’s report and sent summaries to members along with a voting ballot to accept or deny the report. Those ballots will be counted Nov. 8.
“If rejected, negotiations could continue and/or a vote on whether to strike could be taken later in November,” said a statement from the PFT. “The union has not gone on strike in 40 years, and it is always considered a last-resort option.”
The PFT said smaller class sizes and moving away from performance-based pay are top priorities. The union also claims the district is seeking to place more of the financial burden for health insurance on teachers.
“We also are concerned that instead of incentivizing positive health behaviors, the district wants to penalize employees for certain activities,” according to the PFT statement.
Hamlet also declined to comment on concerns raised by the PFT, but said he wants to make sure teachers have a robust benefits package.
“They work for Pittsburgh Public Schools and they’re my employees and I want them healthy, I want them happy, I want them coming to work feeling like they’ve been dealt with equitably and that they feel supported,” he said. ”I want to make sure that they understand that I want the best for them.”