The mayor of Philadelphia says it's time to cut through the distractions in the dispute between the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and the school district and work things out at the bargaining table. 

 

Mayor Michael Nutter says an ad paid for by the teachers union that claims he's siding with Gov. Tom Corbett in not funding the city's schools is distracting and wrong.

"The fact of the matter is is that there are desperately needed reforms and changes that need to be made. Many are economic and will help us save money," he said Monday during a news conference. "Those savings will actually bring more teachers, more counselors, more noontime aides back to school."

District officials say that for the schools to open with more than the bare essentials, teachers must provide $130 million worth of givebacks.

Nutter suggested teachers begin paying a portion of their health-care costs as negotiations continue on a new contract. The current pact expires Saturday.

"No one has been able to make an argument that made any sense to me that this group of employees should pay zero for their health care in an environment where costs are growing and that is a growing pressure for the School District of Philadelphia," Nutter said.

The mayor also says a Philadelphia tax on cigarettes would be a permanent source of funding for the schools -- and something the General Assembly should approve. A proposal for a $2 per pack city tax never moved out of a Senate committee.