This morning, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) made the tough decision to agree to a wage freeze and health care contributions. Parents United for Public Education stands with Philadelphia teachers across the city who are making a difference everyday in our classrooms. We also want to make clear that this means the District’s average 19% below pay average in the region makes our teachers that much less competitive. This is not a point of celebration.
We will hold Superintendent William Hite and the School Reform Commission to their word that the union concessions mean essential staff will be immediately restored to schools. We expect the full restoration of guidance counselors, and the appropriate number of teachers to eliminate overcrowding, split grades, and to maintain lower class size in the primary years. These have been long-standing policies of the School District and well-recognized pedagogical imperatives. We also must work to restore administrative staff as well as nurses and librarians to all schools.
We demand that the Mayor and all city and civic leaders stop the rhetoric around teacher bashing. Philadelphia teachers earn on average in the mid-$40,000 – well below their suburban counterparts – face enormously challenging teaching conditions, have an average level of experience of five years and an average age of 34 years. Nationally, the average teacher experience is 14 years. As parents, we want to see our teachers as decently paid, respected professionals who see teaching as a sustainable profession. We oppose language and policies that promote a high turnover, low-wage, deprofessionalized workforce.
We expect the Mayor and City Council to put aside their differences and recognize that the $50 million they promised to open schools is simply not enough. We are not sending our children to school to go to a shell of a building. We send our children to go to school for the education they deserve. The Mayor and City Council must agree to a compromise that will give us more than the $50 million, whether that is both the sales tax and the properties plan or whether it is a combination along with a $50 million appropriation from the general fund. Any city plan must be crafted with an express goal to restore ALL counselors to our schools and eliminate split grades and overcrowding.
Finally, we expect the Mayor and City Council and our Philadelphia delegation to now go to Harrisburg and present a united front on behalf of our schools. To date, the state has given exactly $2 million of a requested $120 million state rescue package. Governor Corbett and the General Assembly are holding hostage $45 million in funds specifically designated for the School District of Philadelphia. The Corbett administration demands reckless charter expansion in Philadelphia but has eliminated $220 million in charter reimbursements statewide. We ask our Philadelphia elected officials to stop low-balling Philadelphia’s children. Demand charter reimbursements and the release of our $45 million immediately. In addition, the state must deliver its share of the $120 million rescue package. And finally, the passage of legislation mandating a generous and equitable education funding formula must be the top legislative, political and lobbying priority of every official in the City of Philadelphia.
We have less than two weeks before school begins. Our schools are running on fumes, with principals saying their schools are not even functional. As parents, we have been both appalled and exasperated with the embarrassing displays of the last few weeks from our elected officials, who at times seemed more concerned with posturing than with the actual condition and realities of our schools. The time for talk is over. The time for action is now.
NBC10 lays out an excellent summary: http://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/local/Philly-Teachers-Union-to-Offer-Contract-Concessions-221474981.html
Updates on Twitter:
Philadelphia Schools Partnership weighs in:
The Mayor’s press secretary weighs in and weighs in and weighs in: