These remarks were made at the Aug. 15 SRC special meeting which stripped seniority from the teachers’ contract. This means that the District has the right to arbitrarily determine which staff to return to schools based on “need.” The SRC voted unanimously to do so.
Last week when you Superintendent Hite issued your ultimatum, parents across the city sprang into action on your behalf. Within 24 hours we were down at City Hall meeting with the Mayor’s office staff and City Council members. Parents wrote letters to the editor, made phone calls, contacted the media about our stories ,and turned out for press conferences for support. We stayed up late, emailing into the night, and met and planned – all on behalf of you because , foolishly, we somehow believed.
Of all the things which have run through my head in the past week, the saddest one perhaps is the sinking in that all of last week – the plea from you, Superintendent Hite, the threat not to open schools which sent parents and families across the city into a panic, the dueling press conferences – all of it was nothing but political theater to justify this.
This was never, never about educating our children.
If it were, you would have made the smallest effort to make sure the state money was on the table. But you didn’t even try to get money from the state, money which would have alleviated, if not solved, this crisis. Instead you are permitting the woeful unprepared opening of schools no superintendent or educator in their right mind would declare fit or ready for children. You allow this opening of schools in order to provide pathetic cover for a governor who has not only failed to do his duty but has manufactured and exploited a crisis for political gain.
You normalize poverty, deprivation and inequity in his name.
The selective elimination of seniority also goes by another name – justification for institutional inequity. Your job is not to make arbitrary calls on which students are needy enough for a guidance counselor. Every child deserves a guidance counselor. Every child deserves a school aide to watch over them in the lunchroom or on the playground. (Labeling this seniority and claiming some pretense at reform to justify denying one child a guidance counselor and granting it to another is an example of the moral vacuum you live in.)
You demand standards for children to be college and career ready but deny them the resources to open functioning schools. You talk about a war for education, yet you fire on your own soldiers who are going to fight it for you.
Your actions breed cynicism, disgust and drive away countless parents and families revitalizing this city. For the first time Philadelphia has turned the tide on five decades of population decline. We’ve done so by attracting new residents and young families, new immigrants who overwhelmingly land in our public schools. And here you stand, ripping out the heart of our schools, denying possibilities for our children and eroding a future for this city.
And yet, still we hope. The Governor holds only two votes on the SRC. The other three comprise the majority. There is still a choice.