AFT president Randi Weingarten and 18 others were arrested March 7 at the headquarters of the School District of Philadelphia for protesting city officials' plans to close 29 public schools. The protesters were blocking the doors to prevent Philadelphia's School Reform Commission from voting on the school-closing plan. Watch video highlights of the protests.
Before the arrests, Weingarten—along with Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan, a number of Philadelphia City Council members, and other community and religious leaders—addressed a crowd of several hundred protestors who had gathered at the district headquarters before the commission meeting. They demanded a moratorium on harmful school closures, which are a reckless approach to education that destabilizes communities. Parents, teachers and community members have drafted and united around an alternate plan to invest in neighborhood schools, but the plan has been ignored by the School Reform Commission.
"Kids have suffered cut after cut," Weingarten said. "Fix, don't close, schools!" The crowd joined along with its own chant of "Don't close schools!"
"Enough is enough," agreed Jordan, who is also an AFT vice president.
The Philadelphia protests and arrests generated a flood of likes, shares and comments on the AFT Facebook page. Among the comments: "Excited about our president defending public schools and public school teachers to the limit. Way to go President Weingarten!" "We need this across the nation!" "I respect one who stands up for what they believe. You are never wrong when you stand up for a child." "Take a lesson, leaders. Al Shanker is smiling today down on Randi today."
The AFT is urging members to stand with local teachers, parents and community members, and tell Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter to fix, not close, the city's public schools. [Dan Gursky, Marcus Mrowka/Photos by Laurie Beck]
March 7, 2013