Right now, Pittsburgh teachers are deciding whether or not to go on strike. The Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers sent out ballots for a strike-authorization vote to its members last week, and the ballots are expected to be counted on Feb. 12.
The potential strike comes after nearly a year of negotiations between the teachers’ union and the Pittsburgh Public School District. The district’s contract with the union expired on June 30, 2017. PFT is negotiating on behalf of teachers, paraprofessionals and technical/clerical employees. Negotiations have stalled as the district and PFT have failed to reach agreements on issues like salaries, contract lengths, health-care benefits and teacher scheduling.
But while the district and the union try to settle things, local education watchdog A+ Schools is working to make sure students aren’t left out in the cold. It’s calling on administrators to come up with a plan to provide care to district students if teachers are absent.
Sixty-five percent of district families are economically disadvantaged, which means the cost of child care during the strike could be untenable for many. A+ is hoping local nonprofits will step up to fill the gap.
“We know families rely on school as a place to go that is safe, that provides an education, that allows parents to work,” says James Fogarty, A+ Schools executive director. “Many of those families are doing hourly work, where taking time off means the family doesn’t get paid. You’re exacerbating the problems of poverty if you don’t have a place for children to go.”