Contract negotiations between the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Association of Catholic Teachers got off to a rocky start after union members rejected an initial contract offer Wednesday, May 27.

The “early bird” negotiation process, which is limited to salaries and benefits, began in mid-April with the intention of signing a new contract well ahead of the 2015-2016 academic year that begins in September.

As a result of the vote, full contract negotiations will begin. They could include salaries as well as work rules and other contract elements.

The 625 Catholic secondary school teachers in the archdiocese – elementary school teachers are not represented by the teachers’ union – have been working under a one-year deal signed May 28, 2014. That agreement included a $1,200 raise and addressed “rising medical costs in a manner that is fair to all parties,” according to an archdiocesan statement at that time.

According to that contract, the starting annual salary for a basic-level teacher with an undergraduate degree is $38,850.

In a statement released Wednesday, the archdiocese expressed hope for a new contract “that will be fair to all parties while recognizing that the needs and expectations of our students and school families are paramount.”

Approximately 14,000 students attend the 17 archdiocesan high schools located in Philadelphia and Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties.

A new contract, the archdiocesan statement said, “needs to put students first and have the principal goal of providing for education excellence in a 21st century learning environment.”

The Catholic school teachers last went on strike in 2011 for nearly two weeks.