Pittsburgh Teachers’ Strike Averted, but Transparency is Still Needed

After nearly nine months without a contract, the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers (PFT) and Pittsburgh Public Schools have tentatively reached an agreement, which will stave off this Friday’s impending teachers’ strike. If union leaders approve the new deal, union members will vote to ratify the proposal.

Only then, after both sides ratify the contact, will the 24,000 students, parents, and taxpayers finally learn the details.

The only negotiation details released to the public have come from unofficial volleys between Superintendent Anthony Hamlet and PFT President Nina Esposito-Visgitis over principal scheduling authority.

In a game of brinksmanship where government union demands for increased public money create uncertainty for our schoolchildren, the public has a right to know the terms on the table.

Transparency and accountability are even more necessary given the dismal performance of most Pittsburgh schools. Last year, The Pennsylvania Campaign for Achievement Now (PennCAN) issued a report called Opportunities Lost: The urgent need to improve Pittsburgh’s schools. The report found that a whopping 78 percent of Pittsburgh students attended a low-performing public school.

Under SB 168, sponsored by Sen. Patrick Stefano, contract agreements would be made public before ratification. Senators Ryan Aument and Scott Martin have introduced additional measures to bring transparency to local contract negotiations, noting that “secrecy breeds distrust and transparency is the cornerstone of good government.”

It is simply nonsensical that Pittsburgh taxpayers don't see what they're paying for until after a deal is finalized. Likewise, contract secrecy limits accountability to parents that entrust their children to public educators. It’s time to shine some light on the contract negotiation process.