Over 1,000 educators from more than 20 District schools called out of work May 1 to protest the continued lack of a labor agreement between the School District and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.
Led by the activist group Caucus of Working Educators, teachers from Franklin Learning Center, Central High School, Mifflin Elementary School, Feltonville School of Arts & Sciences, Masterman, the U School, and others held informational pickets outside their school buildings calling attention to the contract stalemate that has persisted for more than four years.
The rallies were part of a series of May Day activities meant to draw attention to several social justice issues, including educational equity, immigrant rights, affordable housing, and workers’ rights and fair wages.
“We believe it is past time to advocate for our students beyond the classroom and take our message directly to the streets,” said Amy Roat, a teacher at Feltonville Arts & Sciences. “Our struggle as workers is directly tied to the plight of all Philadelphians who all want a fair wage for an honest day’s work.”
In addition to the informational pickets, teachers and other educators rallied on the steps of District headquarters and marched to City Hall to visit Council members before heading to a PFT Educator Exit Rally at Lea Elementary School. Six teachers who resigned from the District due to the lack of a new contract were honored there.
Teachers have long been emphasizing the need for improved working conditions and speaking out against the severe state and federal budget cuts in 2011 that resulted in a loss of counselors and nurses, increased class sizes, and a scarcity of resources. Many teachers have spent their own money to buy supplies and have taken on second jobs just to make ends meet.
“Students deserve small classes, clean drinking water, safe buildings, support services, technology, and above all else, high-quality teachers,” said Franklin Learning Center teacher Jessica Way.
“A contract for the educators of Philadelphia is a contract for the future of Philadelphia’s children.”
Pamela Roy, a WE caucus member who teaches math and science to 5th and 6th graders at Mifflin, said, “Our students deserve the very best learning conditions and the very best teachers. Without a contract, they can’t have that.”