As Educators Face Increasing Struggles, Students and Teachers Unite to Save Jobs and Schools
By Sameer Rao
Even as Philadelphia school year began amidst ongoing deficit concerns, school closures, and employee layoffs, few could have predicted that the School District of Philadelphia would take an even bigger hit. That hit came in the form of a sudden action from the School Reform Commission (SRC), on the morning of October 6th, to cancel its contract with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and reexamine its healthcare provisions.
This cancellation, ostensibly done to redirect $44 million worth of funds to schools, not only cancels the provision for teacher healthcare, but also eliminates caps on class sizes and provides no money for textbooks or other supplies. The action is all the more egregious considering the tax breaks that state and city officials have offered to major energy and telecommunications corporations, some of whom are receiving breaks larger than district deficits.
Educators, students, and other school supporters have engaged in swift action to protest and challenge this offense to teachers’ already precarious situation. Members and supporters of the Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools, Philadelphia’s Working Families Party, and Fight for Philly gathered in front of Governor Tom Corbett’s Philadelphia office to protest the cancellation on Monday afternoon – mere hours after the SRC announcement.
Two days later, students at the Creative and Performing Arts High School (CAPA) and Science Leadership Academy – two of the district’s top magnet high schools – walked out of classes to protest the SRC’s treatment of their teachers, joining other students around the city. Impressively, CAPA students used their training in music and dance training to further amplify their message of support (see video at bottom).
“We’re out here to tell the SRC that we don’t approve of what they did. We think it’s wrong, and it’s immoral, and we’re also here to show our teachers that we’re standing in solidarity with them,” said Cy Wolfe, a CAPA student who co-organized the protests.
These actions will likely not be the last ones as this issue takes on newer urgency during this fall’s gubernatorial election. Still, if these efforts are any indication, educators and their supporters at all levels will remain unified and energized in their fight for a restoration of contracts and desire for fairer school funding.
Check out photos from Monday’s protest, as well as photos and video from Wednesday’s student strike at CAPA, below: