I am proudly part of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. In my 8th year of teaching seniors at Olney High School and the Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush, I have started to question my career. I still love my job and the students. I keep a smile on my face, and do the best I can because the students and parents deserve exceptional instructional quality. For as long as I can remember, the teaching profession was a noble endeavor and usually held in high regard, and I still think that is the case in other areas of the country.
However, in the last four years, teaching in Philadelphia has become a bit of a burden because of factors such as the dismantling of public education here, lack of funding, lack of charter oversight, not having a contract for four years, or hearing that teachers are “greedy” and “need to work longer hours.” All of these factors make me want to leave the profession. So I’m about to clear up some misconceptions about these so-called “greedy” teachers.
Many of my colleagues echo my opinion because it is quite demoralizing to look at my paycheck every two weeks and see $1,310 ($655 a week) for the last four years. Right now, I am being paid as a 4th-year teacher with a bachelor’s degree ($54,365 a year), but I’m really an 8th-year teacher with a master’s degree who would be making $67,778 a year if our salaries were not frozen in time. As a professional educator, it is a slap in the face to hear Bill Green, former School Reform Commission chair, call us “lazy” or “undeserving of a raise because we don’t share in the sacrifice” because we are affiliated with a union. He has been trying to break this union since he was undemocratically assigned to the SRC by former Gov. Corbett and Mayor Nutter a few years back.
I would love if the Inquirer, Daily News, Philadelphia City Council, and Mayor Kenney would put out statements in the news and on social media that put pressure on the SRC and Superintendent William Hite to negotiate a contract with the PFT. Teaching is a 60-hour workweek if you include grading, lesson-planning, meeting with parents, and professional development. A District teacher’s day officially ends between 2:54 and 3:30 p.m., but this does not mean that the workday is over. There really is no overtime pay for a teacher unless you’re a coach or are in charge of some extracurricular activities after school.
As for summer vacation, if you take the extra 20 hours a week in paperwork that teachers do at home and multiply that by 38 weeks (9.5 months), it actually averages to a little over 40 hours a week if we worked throughout the summer. We actually work as many hours as people in the private sector, but we do it over a condensed period – 9.5 months. Many teachers in the District have second jobs to supplement their income. Furthermore, the District is hiring new teachers from outside and paying them for prior years served in other districts, which means they are being paid at the correct rate. This is unacceptable and very demoralizing for all Philadelphia teachers who have worked over the last four years without a contract.
The SRC and Superintendent Hite are negotiating with the PFT, but teachers are still without a contract offer. I’m sure the SRC and the District would love to hire 10,000 first- and second-year teachers to save money and fill the void, but experience counts. You need veteran teachers to guide new teachers to prevent them from making any missteps early on that will adversely affect a child’s future. I need veteran teachers because as an 8th-year teacher, there are things that I still need to learn.
Parents, former students, friends, and colleagues, please call on your politicians to put pressure on the District, Superintendent Hite, and the SRC to negotiate a contract. I speak on behalf of many teachers who believe that the District treats them as expendable cargo. I would like to do this for 30 years, but unfortunately, many teachers will not make it to 30 years if politicians keep saying that teachers are “lazy.” Trust me, teaching is not a “comfy union job.”
Bryan Steinberg is a social studies teacher at the Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush High School.