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A rally for more funding for a struggling school district

By the Notebook on Aug 22, 2013 08:51 PM
Photo: Harvey Finkle

Protesters, many belonging to the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and local education advocacy groups, marched through Center City to demand more funding for Philadelphia public schools.

by Tom MacDonald for NewsWorks

Rallying for more funding for the city's schools, at least a thousand protesters took to the streets of Philadelphia on Thursday afternoon.

Mostly teachers, the crowd surged toward the Philadelphia School District headquarters, where the School Reform Commission was to meet for the last time before the school year begins Sept. 9.

The teachers, whose contract expires Aug. 31, chanted and called for more school funding.

"I'm worried about my life, my contract, my job, and my students," said preschool teacher Amy Kauffman.

Many of the teachers say they can't afford the concessions that the financially struggling School District is seeking in order to qualify for more funding from Harrisburg.

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Comments (40)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 22, 2013 9:29 pm
The $45 million from Harrisburg is only a bait and switch. The SDP will never get it unless the PFT gives back way more than $130 million. The PFT will not be allowed to benefit from that $45 million. It will go to charter schools.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 22, 2013 9:40 pm
What I find interesting about this is that the SRC thinks it has the power to unilaterally change the contract. If they think they have this power why haven't they asked the state for the money since they have implemented the 'reforms' they want?
Submitted by Maureen Fratantoni (not verified) on August 23, 2013 2:17 am
The teachers go above and beyond for their students, even buying supplies and paper out of their own money at times. They should not have to give back concessions. Take money from the top people making the big bucks. They can afford it. It is adding insult to injury.
Submitted by rscherf1 (not verified) on August 23, 2013 6:14 am
If protesters want more money for the schools, there is nothing preventing them to donate that money that they are demanding for their childs education.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 23, 2013 7:56 am
Oh Robert, you want a government that will label GMOs but you don't even think it's the role of the government to properly fund schools. You see public employees as leeches and pretend that you don't benefit from government and then complain about the government services you don't have.
Submitted by rscherf1 (not verified) on August 24, 2013 4:09 am
Anonymous, yes I do want GMO's labeled and I donate to that cause because at this time, there are NO taxpayers dollars that support this issue, however, 2.3 BILLION dollars a year of taxpayers money is at this time going towards public education in Philadelphia. Nothing in my comment said ANYTHING about public employees or government. Where did you come up with that?
Submitted by HS teach (not verified) on August 23, 2013 11:54 am
We should make police and military rely on charity as well.
Submitted by rscherf1 (not verified) on August 24, 2013 5:38 am
Do you work for free? You are being paid to do your job. Paid for by the taxpayers, not charity, just like the police and military. If you do not like what you are being paid, look for another job.
Submitted by HS teach (not verified) on August 26, 2013 9:23 am
You suggested that I donate money to pay for the school district (not just my salary). I suggested we do the same for police and military to mock you. You don't make any sense in your ignorance and hatred. No one here cares what you think we should do with our lives. We will go on strike, if we need to, and we will not ask for your permission or even support. There are enough reasonable people in this city to support us.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 23, 2013 8:30 am
1. If the city would spend as much time going after tax evaders as they do pandering about school funding, we wouldn't have this much of a situation. 2. I think that teachers across the country are woefully underpaid. You are in charge of educating the future of our country. You should be paid more. 3. That being said, I've never seen a union EVER do something FOR THE KIDS. I know that individual teachers do, but I get tired of the union saying they are doing things for the kids. That's crap. The unions would rather hurt the school district (and subsequently the kids). 4. The district has made some STUPID demands on givebacks. 13% salary given back? Uh.... No. It's not like we have thousands of other teachers lined up ready to take their place...
Submitted by Joan Taylor on August 23, 2013 8:56 am
Point #3 is a bit complicated. The union's job is to protect my wages, benefits, and working conditions. That is all they should be doing. Unfortunately, in urban school districts--and particularly in Philadelphia, with its unelected SRC-- the public cannot depend upon the school board, in our case the SRC, to act in the best interests of the kids. We are seeing this now. Lots of school districts would love to double class size. When it fights this battle, the union is serving both its members and the kids. When it insists on water fountains in buildings or other safety features, it does so on behalf of children as well as its membership. If the PFT didn't get agreements in writing about things that seem to be self-evident--like water fountains--I can assure you, there would be many schools that did without. It happens that a good working environment for the kids is the same as that for the PFT members. It is the nature of our job to be concerned about how kids are treated, but you're right in that it shouldn't be the PFT's job. The thing is, who would fill up the gap? If you've been to an SRC meeting, you would see that the parents are ignored as much as the teachers. And truly, as much as I moan on occasion about the PFT (sorry, Jerry!), the fact is that the PFT is not out to hurt the district. If the membership of the PFT is treated fairly and respectfully, kids are the winners.
Submitted by Anonymously Anon (not verified) on August 23, 2013 9:53 am
1. About $28 million of the city funding is 'stepped up tax collection'. I don't know what's realistic 2. Thanks for your kind words. I actually don't feel woefully underpaid in Philly despite making less than the surrounding areas. The biggest issue for me is the turmoil. I have been at 4 schools in 4 years and at least half of my years there has been a threat against my pay or benefits. 3. I have to agree with Joan that it's mixed. While the union exists to protect its workers it, oddly, seems to be on the side of benefiting children more than the SRC is. The biggest example are class size limits and making sure schools have certain staff. The issue of pay cuts both ways. Obviously legions of good teachers who work for free so that every student can have a good teacher is best for kids. Yet, decent pay is the only way to attract decent teachers. We're going to see how that all works out for Philly in the next few years. 4. The thing is there are plenty of employees who will take our place. Give anyone who applies an emergency certification and $25k and you can fill the slots. The question is can you fill the slots with decent teachers. At this point it wouldn't surprise me if the SRC will buy any cheaper product no matter the quality. Thanks for the chance to talk sensibly about the realities of teaching in the district. As a teacher I know I'm self-interested but I also know I wouldn't want to send my kid to a district where all of the teachers are disgruntled from massive pay cuts. The thing about Philadelphia's situation is that the poor parents have little choice and the middle class ones will just move when their kids reach school age. Funny thing is I fall into that latter category given all of the recent cuts. Too bad for Corbett it won't be to another place in PA.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 23, 2013 8:52 am
If anyone questions the value and necessity of front office staff, listen to the 911 call of the school office worker talking down a heavily armed gunman in Georgia. It seems likely that she saved many, many lives. Most secretaries and noon-time aides will never have to face this situation, but they confront and handle a myriad of other issues on a moment by moment basis every day. They buzz people into the building (or not). They deal with student illnesses and injuries (when we have no nurse). They are often the first to hear rumors of impending student conflicts and then defuse those conflicts.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on August 23, 2013 8:35 am
Don't let them divide and conquer us; We're ALL in this together.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 23, 2013 5:13 pm
Thanks Joe K. for your comment on divide and conquer. They have already divided and conquered 32BJ SEIU maintenance workers. Don't let them do the same to you PFT.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on August 25, 2013 7:10 pm
Just curious, how have they divided and conquered 32BJ SEIU workers?
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on August 25, 2013 7:50 pm
I agree--The PFT and CASA Members should ALL be ashamed of ourselves for ignoring the plight of those folks. Silence is not golden and when good people remain silent, Tyranny wins out. "First They Came."
Submitted by Joan Taylor on August 23, 2013 8:49 am
And if you're a secretary III, with decades of experience, you've been laid off and replaced by a sub, as in my building. The word is that only secretary I's will have jobs. This is why we need a strong union.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 23, 2013 6:44 pm
Another reason why the PFT should strike in a loud, malicious, and unionized way just as in Chicago.
Submitted by Zaw (not verified) on August 23, 2013 8:59 am
Hundreds showed up yesterday? We needed thousands not hundreds! The membership deserves what it gets.
Submitted by MSK (not verified) on August 23, 2013 9:58 am
There certainly were thousands yesterday. Did you see the overhead pictures? The news can report what it wants, but those who were there on the ground know how many showed up!
Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on August 23, 2013 11:32 am
You need to keep your negative attitude to yourself. It doesn't help anyone.
Submitted by Zaw (not verified) on August 23, 2013 11:13 am
Maybe it will help get the rest of the membership off of the beach before its too late. We are asking everyone else to help when a vast majority of the membership cant be bothered to help themselves.
Submitted by Ralphus (not verified) on August 23, 2013 10:31 am
There were THOUSANDS there, not hundreds. It was like being at Citizen's Bank Park during a Friday night game. Crazy!
Submitted by Taxpayer (not verified) on August 23, 2013 10:07 am
Let them protest. There is no new money coming. It's time for the PSD to tighten its belt and live within its means.
Submitted by Zaw (not verified) on August 23, 2013 10:55 am
Thousands? Sorry but I was there. Not even close. I wanted there to be thousands there. There should have been thousands there. If most of the membership can't give a couple hours of their precious summer vacation for the most important rally ahead of a contract deadline then they get what they deserve. We don't have to worry about Nutter, Corbett or corporations busting the union, the membership (and leadership) are doing a bang up job on their own.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 23, 2013 10:25 am
Sorry, but you are incorrect with your numbers...There were at least a thousand (if not more) concerned citizens, parents, teachers, who attended the rally.
Submitted by SMH (not verified) on August 23, 2013 11:46 am
I was there and there were THOUSANDS of people there. There were people getting out of their cars applauding in support of the cause. There were people waving and clapping from the buildings in support as well. The news can underestimate all they like, we know the truth.
Submitted by Zaw (not verified) on August 23, 2013 11:31 am
Not sure how incorrect I am with my numbers when I basically agree with your number.( around a thousand, maybe a bit more) My point is that there needed to be THOUSANDS. Plural, not thousand plus. I was there, and I appreciate all those that were.
Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on August 23, 2013 2:38 pm
Now that is something we can agree on. Every single PFT member should have been there. But I appreciate the people that took the time to support. We are all in this together.
Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on August 23, 2013 11:10 am
I don't think you were there.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 23, 2013 10:43 am
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 23, 2013 7:31 pm
Charter schools deserve 100% of what public schools are allotted, NOT 80% not !!!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 24, 2013 1:03 pm
They get 80% because the district maintains some responsibility for the charter students, such as transportation costs, charter oversight (albeit minimal), in some cases sports, and sometimes facilities (think universal audenreid). For what it's worth, the traditional schools are allocated even less per student than the charters, with the remaining funds controlled by 440 and used in ways that are unclear and often unhelpful.
Submitted by Maureen Fratantoni (not verified) on August 24, 2013 12:53 pm
There were 1,500 people there according to one of the officers. You can see that there were more than 1,000 people when you check out the pictures that were taken from the air. I was there at 440 waiting on the steps and when I had to go in to speak at 440, I went in immediately. They would only let a few in at a time, staggering the amount of people that could go in. Some people were called in the meeting and had not made it in. Some spoke after all of the list was exhausted, probably because they did not make it in on time.
Submitted by Taxpayer (not verified) on August 24, 2013 12:29 pm
Let's knock off this bickering and get the job done. We need a pay cut from the PFT right now and then we need pay raises for you guys down the road. Forget this seniority nonsense. We need to flush out the bad teachers and pay the good ones more. We can make this work.
Submitted by g (not verified) on August 24, 2013 1:27 pm
Do you realize that seniority replaced cronyism? Do you really think that was better? Obviously, at this point, without seniority, the SRC can just lay off everyone and hire back the cheapest ones. Will the school district really be better off down the road when nobody in their right mind would ever consider a career with the district? I love to teach-(the actual teaching) but I told my daughter that I would not help her to pay for college if she majored in education. She would have been a great teacher-but personally, I didn't need the heartbreak! Eventually, the SRC will probably decide to suspend the rule that requires a college degree for teachers-they set the precedent for that this week. In Phila ONLY, we will have teachers with (maybe) a high school diploma-earning ten dollars an hour-reading scripts to the students. There will be nobody left to complain(not that it would do any good) because absolutely any parent with any other option will have long ago crossed the "magic border" into the suburbs. This will bring about the total demise of our city.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 24, 2013 1:05 pm
Seniority DOES NOT protect bad teachers. A new teacher with 3 years and and old teacher with 30 years are entitled to due process equally, it does not take more effort to remove the older teacher for doing a poor job. The only thing seniority is used for in the distinct are transfers and layoffs. Most of the schools are now full site-select, so initial assignments and even many transfers are are done by principals and a committee of teachers/parents from that building, as opposed to by seniority.
Submitted by concerned phila. (not verified) on August 24, 2013 1:23 pm
A larger problem is schools who do not attract teachers with harder to find certifications. Look at the schools with openings - neighborhood schools / Promise Academies. As a teacher at a neighborhood high school who volunteered to be part of the site selection process, the quality of applicants for many positions was disappointing. We also did not have enough applicants (e.g. special ed. with high school certifications, math, physics, etc.) Sending a TFA (Teach for America) recruit is NOT a solution if they do not have a bachelors in the discipline or any experience (e.g. special ed.) The School District is driving more teachers away rather than nurturing teachers who are willing and able to provide excellent instruction in neighborhood schools - especially high schools. A warm body is NOT okay for any school and especially not schools with students with the greatest needs.
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