Sen. Vincent J. Fumo

District Office

1208 Tasker Street
Phila, PA 19148

Harrisburg Office

545 Main Capitol
Hbg, PA 17120



________________NEWS RELEASE
State Senator

1st Senatorial District
Democratic Appropriations Committee Chairman
Room 545 Main Capitol, Harrisburg PA 17120
Internet Website:

PHONE: 717-787-5662

HARRISBURG, September 27, 2000 -- Both sides should continue negotiations over a new contract for the Philadelphia teachers, rather than take any action that would result in a strike at this time, state Senator Vincent J. Fumo (D-Philadelphia) said today.

"Cool heads must prevail. The city and the teachers union must both work hard to arrive at an agreement that is in the best interest of the school children of Philadelphia," he said. "It would be a major mistake to precipitate a strike at this time."

Fumo spoke prior to Mayor Street's scheduled address to the city this evening on the status of talks with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. The senator said he hoped that the "dramatic" action promised by the mayor's staff did not mean that the city would unilaterally impose changes in working conditions that are currently the subject of negotiation.

The teachers, whose contract has expired, have promised not to strike so long as the city does not alter the working conditions without an agreement.

"Everything I have learned from people on both sides indicates that they are not very far apart," Fumo said. "It would only hurt the children of the city to cause a strike when an agreement is within reach.

"Even if one agrees that the proposed changes in work rules are a good idea, it is in everyone's long-term interest to implement them through the collective bargaining process. And it is in everyone's interest, especially the school children's, for the teachers to remain in the classroom and continue negotiating," Fumo said. 

             A state law, Act 46 of 1998, gives the city the power to impose changes in the teachers' working conditions when they cannot reach a contract agreement. The same law gives the state the authority to take over the district if the teachers strike. Gov. Ridge sought and gained passage of the law with the help of Republican legislators, led by Sen. Hank Salvatore of Philadelphia in the Senate. Fumo opposed the measure.

Fumo believes that since Harrisburg helped create this potential crisis by passing legislation that has allowed the city to act in a way that could precipitate a strike, the governor and those who supported him must keep the children of Philadelphia in the classroom rather than in the streets.

"The Governor and his operatives in the General Assembly have been very willing to  threaten the Philadelphia School District with draconian action, including a takeover. Of course, when it comes to actually stepping in and doing something to improve education, they have been totally unwilling to act. If Act 46 now results in a strike, the responsibility for the education of the children in this city will rest solely on the shoulders of Gov. Ridge and his allies in the Legislature," Fumo said.

Fumo pointed out that when the current issues are resolved, everyone in the city -- the mayor, the teachers, administrators, parents, legislators, and others -- will have to join forces and work together to obtain more resources from the State Capital.

"So now, while talks go on, we should not do anything that will drive us further apart," he said.


Copyright 2000 Sen. Vincent J. Fumo