by Isaac Riddle
The Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools organized a press conference Thursday at City Hall to announce a new campaign that would call on City Council and other elected officials to fully fund District schools.
The campaign, called Full Funding Fridays, encourages parents, students and teachers to wear the “fund our schools” sticker or button every Friday in solidarity with the battle for school funding. Rallies will be held every Friday at different schools and other “symbolic” locations to call for more dollars for the city’s schools.
“We parents and community members are telling our elected officials that our children deserve more,” said Kia Hinton, the education committee co-chair at ACTION United.
In support of the campaign, Hinton also encouraged community members to change their profile pictures on Facebook and Twitter to the “fund our schools” logo.
“Our students deserve more. They deserve to not be subjected to overcrowded classrooms,” said Hinton. “They deserve to have enough desks so students aren’t sitting on the floor.”
And they deserve to have enough guidance counselors, participants said. Many schools now have fewer counselors due to budget cuts and some have no counselors.
Dennis Dorfman knows what is required of school counselors. Dorfman worked as a school counselor at AMY middle school in Northeast Philadelphia for 34 years. Now retired, Dorfman volunteers at AMY because the school lacks a full-time school counselor.
“It is a dangerous situation if counselors are not there. They are a stabilizing person who can be there for [students],” said Dorfman at the press conference.
The District continues to work to secure additional funding after massive layoffs and cuts to critical services and programs.
The Full Funding Fridays campaign officially launches Friday, Sept. 13, at Moffet Elementary School. Members from PCAPS and the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign will gather in front of the South Kensington elementary school.
“Until our elected leaders work on a funding formula that is based on enrollment population or other measures, we will continue to find ourselves in the same situation,” Hinton said.
American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten, who has been very vocal about the crisis in Philadelphia, joined the rally.
“We have to force those who have been elected to actually do what they need to do to create a future for the United States of America,” Weingarten said.
Trailed by TV cameras, Weingarten later traveled to Lincoln High School and planned to tour the school and visit classrooms from 2 p.m. until school let out at 2:55.
But principal Donald Anticoli met her in the lobby and said that touring the school would be disruptive and that she could come inside to talk to teachers after school let out.
Instead, Weingarten spoke to parents, students, and teachers outside, said an AFT spokesman, Marcus Mrowka, who was on the scene.
Mrowka said it was the first time that Weingarten had been denied access to a school while it was in session. She has been president of AFT since 2008 and was president of the United Federation of Teachers, its New York City affiliate, for 12 years before that.
Anticoli said in an interview later that he was only told the day before, through the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers building representative, that Weingarten wanted to visit. "We determined that the timing was bad, at the end of the school day," he said.
Weingarten has been a steady presence in Philadelphia as the PFT continues to negotiate with the District, which is seeking pay cuts and other concessions.
Isaac Riddle is an intern at the Notebook. Contributing Editor Dale Mezzacappa contributed reporting.