I've visited Philadelphia a number of times over the past year. I was there when thousands took to the streets to protest the School Reform Commission's attempt to impose a contract on teachers days before the election. And I was there on Election Day when Pennsylvanians decided resoundingly that they wanted a new direction for public education—one that doesn't point the finger at teachers, but looks to real solutions to bridge inequities.
I know the tight-knit community in Philadelphia—particularly parents, students and teachers—must be relieved at the Commonwealth Court's decision. The judges ruled against the SRC's attempt to undermine the professionalism of our educators, jeopardize their ability to provide for themselves and their families, and distract the community from the true task at hand—that is, providing the highest-quality education to all kids in Philly.
Today, with the Commonwealth Court's ruling, justice and honesty prevailed, delivering a huge victory to Philly educators and the community they serve. A quick look at Twitter would show you that the excitement is spreading throughout the City of Brotherly Love:
State Court ruling is not just a "win" for PFT. This is standing up for basic labor rights. #PhlEd— Helen Gym (@HelenGym2015) January 22, 2015
The place to negotiate is at the bargaining table, not through the courts in attempts to skirt the law, and not in closed-door sessions in the middle of the night. If the SRC was serious about introducing solutions that actually benefit the community, they would have presented them at the bargaining table. Instead, they chose to litigate arguments that had no place in court, with no concern for educators. It's a shame. Just think of the time, money and energy that went into fighting this unnecessary court case. Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan said it best: "It's time to redirect the energy and resources wasted on litigation to negotiating a contract that will ensure our schoolchildren and educators are given the best possible tools for teaching and learning."
There are real challenges facing the Philadelphia community. Equal economic and educational opportunity remains out of reach for too many. Real solutions don't come without hard work. Philadelphia's teachers know that, and that's why they are digging deep every day to make sure all of Philly's students get the high-quality education they deserve. Attacking educators is not a solution. It's a distraction. I'm so proud to stand in solidarity with my brothers and sisters in Philly as they continue the fight to reclaim the promise of public education.