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Not the same public schools I went to

By the Notebook on Aug 28, 2013 11:40 AM

by Kia Hinton

I live in the same house in Southwest Philadelphia that I grew up in. My kids go to the same public schools I did. But even though the buildings are unchanged and some of the teachers I had are still around, going to public school in Philadelphia is just not the same as it was when I was a kid.

It’s never been as bad as it is now. Four thousand teachers and school support staff were laid off. Twenty-four schools have been closed. The classes will be packed to capacity. There will be nearly no art, music, or extracurricular activities. Our kids will get barely any one-on-one attention. The list goes on and on.

My neighbors are panicking. Some are thinking about home-schooling their kids. Others are scrambling to gather enough money to send their kids to private school. This isn’t what they’d choose. They want their kids to go to high-quality neighborhood schools. This is a last resort.

Last resorts have become all too common in our starving school district. Mayor Nutter’s 11th-hour announcement that he would borrow $50 million to get the school doors open on time is the latest example. And the thing about it is, we don’t need to be in this “last resort” place.

Big businesses in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania are getting the break our kids need. The City Council tried to pass an increase in the corporate Use and Occupancy tax that would have raised $30 million for our schools. That failed. Council did pass a $2-per-pack cigarette tax that would have generated $74 million for our schools. But the state wouldn’t enact it.

It’s even worse in Harrisburg. Gov. Corbett cut $1 billion from public schools statewide. He’s only given $2 million to make up for the $304 million budget shortfall in the School District of Philadelphia, and he’s holding $45 million more hostage until teachers make concessions he says are acceptable. Meanwhile, he’s putting $400 million toward a new prison and giving major tax breaks to corporations.

So I get why other parents are ready to run for the hills. They’re worried, and I’m worried too. I’m worried that my kids won’t be as safe at school with fewer adults watching out for them. I’m worried that teachers will be stretched so thin that the high-quality education they’ve always provided will be impossible. I’m worried that we are going to relive this “will the schools open or won’t they?” nightmare again and again until the people we elected figure out some long-term solutions.

But even with those worries, I’m determined to stick with it. I’ve always wanted my kids to go to the same great public schools I went to. And that’s a vision I’m not giving up on.

From all I’ve read and heard, it seems like the ball is in Mayor Nutter’s court. Gov. Corbett has proven that he has no interest in standing with me, my kids, and the teachers we love. So it’s frustrating to me that Mayor Nutter keeps cozying up to him.

Mayor Nutter, I’m asking you -- pleading with you, really -- to demand fair funding for Philadelphia schools. We can’t keep getting by with the bare minimum. My kids and all Philadelphia’s children deserve more.

Kia Hinton is a Philadelphia parent and a member of ACTION United, a community activist group. 


The opinions expressed are solely those of the author.

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Comments (92)

Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2013 12:06 pm
From what we just heard from Jerry Jordan, it looks like he too is cozying up to the corporate elites who are running our government, our town, and our schools. Thanks so much for stepping up for the PFT ad Kia. You spoke eloquently. You were willing to take the inevitable push back on gets from the ignorant, the uninformed, the trolls. But don't you feel a bit run over by Jordan? He actually spoke as if he, not his union members who pay his salary, was the one who cared for the kids. I am devastated by this betrayal. Not shocked, just devastated. This battle is not over Jerry. WE MUST VOTE NO TO THIS CONTRACT!!! WE NEED TO HAVE DIFFERENT LEADERSHIP. WE ARE ON OUR OWN HERE FOLKS. AN UNION SOLIDARITY WILL NEED TO COME FROM THE RANKS.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2013 12:07 pm
I don't think he presented a contract proposal but rather a recommendation to be presented to the members. I doubt anyone was expecting a raise, so a wage freeze seems appropriate. He was adamant about not taking a reduction. I fully expect to pay something for healthcare. I saw this as a way to say this is our bottom line to step up for children, now elected officials need to do the same.
Submitted by Gtown_teach (not verified) on August 28, 2013 12:17 pm
I agree. I don't think that this is the time to push for pay increases. I think we should accept wage freezes and healthcare pay. If the SDP accepts this, then let's go with it. I think it's more important to get politically active come election time, and get Corbutt out of office. With a fair funding formula, and increased education budget, PFT should then push for more wages. The only way to offset healthcare pay-ins is raises. Hite will be gone by then as well. Heck, we might even get out from under state control. I urge everyone to support Mike Stack's SB 913.
Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2013 1:57 pm
Are you both teachers? Have you been following this issue as it has been laid out in piecemeal? I never asked for a pay raise. However, I have attended every meeting held on this topic, every SRC meeting and most respondents who think this is in any way reasonable- are not adding the components of this contract proposal together. Apparently, the district/ and now Jerry- is hoping to reach union members too lazy (for lack of a better word) perhaps too pathologically unaware- to know that they, their families, their children, their younger colleagues- ARE BEING ROYALLY SCREWED! Lets review this now: No more step increases/ PLUS contribution to health care which will increase with each contract PLUS no seniority, etc... This is a thinly veiled PAY CUT. I am at the top of the pay scale. I am fighting for co-workers at the bottom where they will remain. Stuck with professional credentials earning in the low 40,000 RANGE. Treated like seasonal workers. I have been paying too much attention to this nationally and locally to be naive in response. These people are not your friends. Right now, that includes Jerry and Randi Weingerten. If you don't know Randi, read this: http://atthechalkface.com/2013/07/12/corporate-educations-friend-randi-w...
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Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2013 12:30 pm
I could not believe my eyes when I read that email from Jerry this morning. It sounds much different from the fight I thought we were TOGETHER fighting. NO is OUR answer with or without him! Sept. 2nd will hopefully be OUR day!
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Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2013 12:57 pm
Email Jerry Jordan, jjordan@pft.org, and let him know he caved again.Not a good propsal.A normal "union" with strong leadership, doesn't make wage freeze concessions first for it's members and add salt to the wound by saying and while you are at it ,pay healthcare cost-- further decreasing your pay. Email addressess: jjordan@pft.org execoffice@pft.org
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2013 12:05 pm
Jerry just confirmed no strike vote on Monday. "Jordan said he would not ask union members to authorize the negotiating team to call a strike at a membership meeting at 6 p.m. on Monday. Under the state takeover law, union members could lose their teaching certification if they strike." Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/education/20130829_Union__teachers_should_f...
Submitted by Teachin' (not verified) on August 28, 2013 12:58 pm
What about our step increases?
Submitted by Vicki (not verified) on August 28, 2013 1:06 pm
I think they were taken away with that SRC vote, weren't they?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2013 12:14 pm
Jerry cannot ask for a Strike authorization. According to Act 46, he would be asking the membership to break the law (at least that's the State's contention). BUT, that doesn't mean that a strike proposal cannot not be raised by the membership through a motion from the floor and voted on by the membership at Monday night's meeting
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Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on August 28, 2013 12:50 pm
I am deeply saddened by "all of this" especially since it is on the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech. I was a child when I heard that speech, and I spent countless hours with my reading students reading about the rights he died fighting for and the values that we all cherish. They understood the importance of his beliefs and those countless others who have fought for our civil rights. His words, his beliefs, should strike to the fiber of what we do as a city, as a state, as a nation -- as a humanity. But sadly, it seems we have forgotten the very values we have cherished as Americans.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on August 28, 2013 12:47 pm
Kia---Thank You for all your efforts on the kids' behalf and that of the teachers too. Nutter or Mutter as I call him although The Notebook has threatened to exile me if I don't stop, will play whatever card he has at his disposal. He has no credibility and will throw anybody under the bus for his own personal advancement. He just doesn't care about you, your kids, me or mine. Hite is NOT the friend of the kids either. He was brought here to create Apartheid Education and guess which kids will be left out? Please encourage other families to band together so that ALL the kids will receive a free and fair education in Philly. Thanks Again---Joe K. P.S. Corbett is simply the agent of evil personified but you already know that.
Submitted by anon (not verified) on August 28, 2013 12:22 pm
so i raised the question the other day and repeat it now. how much of a concession is a one-year freeze in step pay? jerry said "millions". should be easy enough to figure out.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2013 12:21 pm
We voted to strike in 2002 I think was the year. It was after Act. 46. We were technically only on strike for one weekend and never missed any class time. So we did authorize a strike before even with Act. 46 in place.
Submitted by Annonym (not verified) on August 28, 2013 3:27 pm
Ms. Hinton - Thank you for doing the ad and writing the op-ed. Nutter's comments were insulting, paternalistic and demeaning. He should be ashamed of his record - the anti-education and anti-union mayor.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on August 28, 2013 8:47 pm
Ms. Hinton, I appreciate your article. With regard to your statement that the ball is in Mayor Nutter's court, the ball SHOULD BE in Governor Corbett's court. The city has raised property taxes over the past couple of years to fund the schools. The city has done its part. If Mayor Nutter cared, he would THROW THE BALL BACK TO Governor Corbett and the legislature and force them to solve the mess that they created. The money is there, but Corbett and the Republican-dominated legislature don't want to provide proper funding to the District. They are more interested in busting the PFT, even if it comes at the expense of children. They put politics before kids. And let's be real, these conservative Republicans don't care much about children of color anyway because these children's parents and other relatives vote mostly for Democrats. If Nutter really cared, he'd be SHAMING the governor and legislature into restoring money to the District's budget. Nutter could be using the media as his platform. He and Dr. Hite could have formed alliances with superintendents of suburban districts to lobby for more money. Suburban districts are having to raise property taxes and cut budgets too. If Dr. Hite and Mayor Nutter really cared, they would have SUED the Commonwealth for more money. Asking teachers and other staff to work a longer school day and at the same time, take a pay cut is completely disrespectful and unreasonable. The PFT is far from perfect, but parents need to stand with the PFT and DEMAND that the Commonwealth provide a "thorough and efficient" system of public education in Philadelphia. EGS
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 29, 2013 7:47 am
It saddens me to see the deterioration of the school district in which I was educated and worked in for 37 years. The conspiracy to dismantle public education in this country digs deep, particularly in the shadow of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. As a former Federation member who struggled through many strikes, I am appalled at the thought of not supporting the union that battled to insure that the work conditions and the respect that educators deserve go unchallenged. The poor students in our city who have limited options or alternatives are kept in bondage if we can't offer them the best teachers and resources possible. You can't sustain a city without an educated population. If you are to attract highly qualified teachers from the surrounding suburbs, you must establish a climate and culture that respects the job that they do. Most of the "give-backs" proposed will drive those individuals out. The elimination of the step-system, seniority rules and pay freezes over multiple years is not what bright, young, creative young people signed on for. I can't believe that a city and state government would conspire to break the backs of young people to whom we entrust our most valuable possession - our children.
Submitted by Phila citizen and public school fan (not verified) on August 29, 2013 7:36 am
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