Gerald Wright: The SRC has gone too far

Gerald-Parent rally-Oct2014
Parents United founder Gerald Wright speaks at a rally decrying the SRC’s attack on teachers. The rally was organized by Parents United, PCAPs and Action United parents. (photo: PCAPS)

On October 15, parents across the city gathered at 440 to decry the SRC’s decision earlier this month to throw out the teachers’ contract. Parents United for Public Education joined with Action United and PCAPs to organize the rally because we believe that a strong school district works in partnership with its labor force, not at odds with it. Parents across the city believe in collaborating with our teachers for solutions and we are outraged at the District’s unilateral decision to not only end collective bargaining rights, but also put the financial burden on teachers rather than demand just and equitable funding from the state of Pennsylvania and our city. The SRC’s move is one in a long line of non-transparent and dishonest actions that has Philadelphians citywide calling for the end of a state takeover body that has failed any semblance at a public mission. Gerald Wright, a founder of Parents United in 2006, gave this statement on behalf of Parents United for Public Education.

Open Letter

A Monumental Decision without Public Debate;

The SRC has Gone Too Far

 GeraldThe action by the SRC to negate the teachers’ contract is the last straw for an undemocratic group responsible for the publicly funded and socially necessary education endeavor.  This action shows no concern or consideration for public input, involvement, or comment.  This is an example of taxation without representation.  This group is out of control.  It needs to be done away with.

According to the SRC’s rule for comments at its meetings, members of the public who wish to make a comment when the SRC meets must call by 4:30pm the day before the scheduled meeting.  By announcing the meeting on Sunday, it did not provide adequate notice so that parents and others could schedule to make a comment.  And there was no time for public debate.

I believe the SRC meeting at 9:30am on Monday October 6, 2014, was improper.  Whether legal or not, the SRC demonstrated that it is neither transparent, concerned with democratic principles, and that it is too comfortable functioning like a tyrant.

The SRC appears to be taking money from teachers’ personal income to provide principals with a discretionary pot of money to purchase items for their school, which may or may not be direct educational supports for the classroom.

Moreover, I do not agree that teachers should have to pay for their health benefits.  Over the years, in lieu of pay increases, the teachers have bargained for more days off, better benefits, and other items that did not cost cash immediately in the short run.  Just because other workers pay for health benefits, does not mean everyone should.  I understand that my stand is not a popular one.  But why should government entities and school management negotiate ‘goodies’ to save money in the short term, then come back later and blame the workers for their poor management or poor decision making.

Overall, I believe teachers are worth more than they are paid here in Philadelphia and have in recent history been asked to accomplish more with less.  Why has the SRC attempted to make them the target of ire and resentment?  We can teach children with fewer administrators, but we can’t with fewer teachers.

There is a problem to be fixed for sure, but the teachers are not the cause of that problem.  Much of our problem has to do with those in positions of authority treating our children like ‘widgets’ and political fodder instead of sacred vessels for a better future and our immediate obligation.

Gerald Wright is the past president of the JS Jenks Home and School Association and is a co-founder of Parents United for Public Education. He has one child at Jenks and is the father of a June 2014 graduate of Constitution High School.