Fight for full funding in Philadelphia continues

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Teachers, parents and community members in Philadelphia are continuing their fight to secure adequate funding for the city's public schools, as the system struggles with problems caused by massive spending cuts, including overcrowded classrooms; a shortage of school counselors, librarians, school nurses and other staff; and transportation problems.

Safety walk

AFT President Randi Weingarten returned to Philadelphia on Sept. 18 to support those efforts. She joined parents, students and teachers on a safety walk from Lea Elementary School. Many students at the school were transferred there after another elementary school building was closed. Now the children have to travel farther and take more dangerous routes that include navigating some busy intersections with no crossing guards.

The day before, a large crowd attended a community town hall meeting to discuss the city's schools. Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan, who is an AFT vice president, told the crowd that "we have to win this fight" to prevent Philadelphia's approach from spreading to other districts. That approach involves cutting budgets and then blaming educators and stripping them of long-held rights. "We are not affording our children the opportunities they need to be successful," he said.

Parents at the meeting complained about a variety of unacceptable conditions, including a biology class with 60 students.

Meanwhile, a new survey from the Pew Charitable Trusts shows that the public blames Gov. Tom Corbett, the state Legislature, Mayor Michael Nutter, the School Reform Commission and other self-described education reform groups for the problems in the city schools. They don't blame teachers and their unions.

new ad from the PFT and its partners in Philadelphia appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer on Sept. 19. () The ad criticizes Corbett and the School Reform Commission for mismanaging public money that could have been used to rehire laid-off school employees.

[Dan Gursky/video by Brett Sherman]

September 19, 2013