AFT members around the country are rallying behind their colleagues in Philadelphia and calling on Mayor Michael Nutter to fund the city's public schools rather than open them for the coming school year with just the bare minimum of resources.
Over the past three years, Nutter has stood with Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett as he gutted funding for the city's public schools. Corbett has expanded tax breaks for corporations and the energy industry while cutting $1 billion from education statewide. The crisis in Philadelphia's schools has been manufactured by Corbett, who is spending $400 million on building a new prison in the city, while starving students of resources, using teachers as scapegoats and treating families as pawns. Already, 24 schools have been closed, and 4,000 teachers and school support staff have been laid off.
Nutter has announced that he will be borrowing $50 million to open schools this year, but those funds are not enough. Students still will face overflowing classes with no arts, music or extracurricular activities, and their schools won't have enough staff to provide them individual attention and support.
The mayor also wants to eliminate seniority rules and force Philadelphia teachers to take additional pay cuts when they already make less than teachers in all the surrounding districts.
"It is the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's obligation to fully fund public education," says Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan, who is an AFT vice president. "Yet the budget office seems to be employing any and every means to avoid living up to this responsibility. Chronic lack of resources has brought this crisis to our schools, not work rule provisions in collective bargaining agreements." Parents of children in the Philadelphia public schools, Jordan says, "should be outraged that Harrisburg is holding their education for ransom in order to force reforms that will do nothing to improve education."
A large rally is planned for Aug. 22 (Thursday) in Philadelphia to call for full, fair funding of the city's schools.
Meanwhile, efforts to prod Nutter to reclaim the promise of public education in Philadelphia and fully fund the schools have generated a tremendous response with emails to the mayor from the Philadelphia community and AFT members around the country. You can add your voice too.
Aug. 20, 2013