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PFT launches neighborhood rallies to protest budget cuts

By the Notebook on Jul 31, 2013 09:43 AM
Photo: Mark McHugh

PFT members, parents, and students protest budget cuts outside DeBurgos Elementary in Kensington.

By Mark McHugh

Dressed in their red union shirts, members of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers filled a crowd of abut 60 people who gathered outside DeBurgos Elementary School on Tuesday afternoon to protest the budget crisis in the School District.

The protest is the first of an August campaign launched by the PFT called “Rally the Neighborhood,” in which PFT members and community organizers will stage rallies at neighborhood schools to call attention to the District’s fiscal crisis and paint a picture for the public of what students will be without when school starts in September.  

“DeBurgos is a microcosm of what is taking place in the Kensington community, in North Philadelphia, in the whole city, and to be honest, the whole state and nation,” said Hillary Linardopoulos, a 3rd-grade teacher at DeBurgos.

“The idea of [the rallies] is highlighting some examples of what these cuts will look like in actual schools,” she said.  

Linardopoulos has worked with the PFT all summer to oppose the budget cuts. Just this past week, she estimated that she, along with fellow PFT members, knocked on about 500 doors in the DeBurgos community to inform residents of the impact the cuts will have.

Despite Superintendent William Hite’s announcement on Friday during a special School Reform Commission meeting that the District will restore 220 secretaries, as well as fall sports and 66 itinerant music teachers through January, many still find the financial outlook to be grim. The funding for sports staff will run out in December, leaving winter sports temporarily out of the equation. Crucial positions, including counselors, assistant principals, and paraprofessionals and aides, have yet to be restored.

The PFT is now negotiating a new contract with the District, which is seeking $133 million in concessions from labor to help make ends meet. Most of those concessions are expected to fall on the PFT. The contract expires Aug. 31, days before school is scheduled to open.

Nelson Santiago, a father of two at DeBurgos, said that he has considered keeping his sons home from school if conditions don’t improve. But as a daily volunteer at DeBurgos and a lead organizer of multiple rallies, he said he is committed to fighting for the welfare of the children.

“We aren’t going to have a nurse. I’m scared [because] my children both have asthma [and] they have to get treatment,” Santiago said.

Concerns such as Santiago’s raise the question of whether schools will be able to function safely and efficiently without the resources that have been eliminated when they open for the first day on Sept. 9.  

“I’m worried. Not just for mine,” Santiago said. “The same love I have for my children, I have for all. I fight for all the children at this school.”

Mark McHugh is an intern at the Notebook.


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Comments (27)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 31, 2013 12:51 pm
We don't need APs, particularly in elementary schools. We do need counselors, nurses, aides. We can run a K-8 school efficiently without an AP (we did it for years until an AP helped ruin our school), but we have so many children in need of mental health supports and who have medical needs that must be addressed for their safety and the safety of others. Start speaking up for what we need and not for what we don't.
Submitted by Amy (not verified) on July 31, 2013 2:35 pm
All large high schools and K-8 schools need APs and counselors. If you need a structured instruction and make sure all the students are serviced then you need Aps to monitor schools for safety. Some APs run their building more efficiently than principals and principals desperately need APs to run programs efficiently. Only the principals and students know the importance of APs.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 31, 2013 12:51 pm
Let them protest. There's no more money coming. The city is broke, the state has a balanced budget amendment, and the federal government is in sequestration. Maybe if these neighborhood people went out and found jobs and paid taxes then there would be more money. Instead they sit around on their backsides all day looking for free stuff from the government.
Submitted by Ken Derstine on July 31, 2013 1:25 pm
Have you done a survey of these neighborhoods where you think people just "sit around on their backsides all day looking for free stuff from the government"? If not, your statement is just pure prejudice. As for the state, the state Constitution says the Legislature must "provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the Commonwealth". The state has never done this for Philadelphia especially in the last ten years when the School District has been under state management.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 31, 2013 2:27 pm
It's no secret that we have a large portion of the working age population in Philly who don't work. How do you think they have time to go out and protest in the middle of the afternoon? As for the state constitution, it says nothing about paying for 100% of the healthcare for teachers. Once the concessions are out of the way, the PSD will be in better shape.
Submitted by Ken Derstine on July 31, 2013 2:01 pm
Once again, have you done a survey of the people protesting? If not this is pure prejudice. As to the health of teachers or anyone, the state Constitutions says in Article IX Section 9: "The General Assembly may provide standards by which municipalities or school districts may give financial assistance or lease property to public service, industrial or commercial enterprises if it shall find that such assistance or leasing is necessary to the health, safety or welfare of the Commonwealth or any municipality or school district." So until we have a national health plan, it falls on the state to provide for the health of its citizens.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 31, 2013 5:08 pm
LOL! With what money, pray tell? Sorry if the real world doesn't conform to your entitlement mentality.
Submitted by Linda (not verified) on August 1, 2013 7:39 am
If the governor hadn't given tax breaks to the corporations, especially the fracking gas companies (PA is the ONLY state that does not tax fracking...even Texas taxes them), we would have money for the schools and other services as well!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 31, 2013 2:48 pm
Stop and think for a moment about what you said- yes, the SDP is one of the only districts where teachers don't contribute to their healthcare coverage. However, to eliminate this would be to remove one of the few "carrots to dangle" in front of prospective teachers looking to come to SDP. Who would come here if they had other options in the suburbs? Certainly not any young people who have the drive to succeed in a professionally run school district. Take away the carrot, give into concessions, and there will be no one left. Remember-we all care deeply about the children in this city, but working for the SDP and for crappy principals/APs is no walk in the park. When the PFT gives in to the demands of the SRC, there won't be one teacher who remains if he/she can get out. Until you yourself have taught here, you cannot imagine what it is like on a daily basis. We are their parents, caregivers, their psychologists, we are constantly bombarded by factors that we cannot control. People who have humbly served this district for many years (Belinda Miller) have left to finish their careers elsewhere. Ask yourself why and then spend a day in any classroom in the SDP. See what we do and how we give everything we have to the children. And then pass judgement
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 31, 2013 4:25 pm
Yeah, if they're going to knock my salary down to $40k, I'll go do something else, anything else in a much more pleasant environment.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 31, 2013 5:44 pm
We'll see what happens. The suburban school districts are not hiring. They have their own union teachers to bring back first. The seniority thing. You can understand. I suspect the lion's share of Philly teachers will stay after the concessions. Quite frankly, I don't know what else you would be qualified to do.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on July 31, 2013 6:03 pm
Troll Alert--Ignore and move on.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 31, 2013 7:52 pm
Huh? Any number of things.
Submitted by Go-Eagles (not verified) on July 31, 2013 2:09 pm
Ken - If you look at the thread from a few days ago, you will find that the per pupil cost of SDP is slightly less, but still inline with neighboring school districts around Philadelphia. The state is adequately funding SDP. The issue is the city of Philadelphia itself.
Submitted by Amy (not verified) on July 31, 2013 3:03 pm
Yes, Hite has to go with Paul Klinn and SRC and that is the only way to save our schools.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 31, 2013 3:48 pm
I have a job that pays quite well in the private sector. As long as I am meeting my responsibilities I can leave work whenever I want to protest with my son's teacher or to go to Harrisburg or City Hall and tell the politicians they need to pay for good teachers and adequately fund our public school system. Many professionals have this flexibility.
Submitted by a teacher (not verified) on July 31, 2013 7:51 pm
"I have a job that pays quite well in the private sector." What kind of wording is that? You know we are teachers who work for the school district. So, what is your job and where do you work? It's good to know people with no stake in the district are reading and commenting on the forums of The Note Book.
Submitted by SMH (not verified) on July 31, 2013 8:58 pm
The commenter was supporting public education. I don't believe that you are a teacher. Did you read the full post? This person clearly is a PSD parent and absolutely has a stake.
Submitted by a teacher (not verified) on August 1, 2013 1:05 am
You are correct. I did make a mistake. I did not know which comment she was replying to, and so misinterpreted her post as sarcasm. Everyone, please accept my apology. I'm sorry. ツ
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 31, 2013 8:38 pm
The question is timing. The PFT contract expires on August 31, 2013. The schools open in September. Who is going to blink first? Will the SRC impose or will the PFT strike? I think the PFt will strike helping to close the 2013-14 deficit by not receiving any pay for several weeks. There will not be any givebacks necessary then. the SRc will have to lengthen the day to have 990 hours by June 2014.
Submitted by Beth Ann (not verified) on July 31, 2013 10:24 pm
I'll strike to retain my salary and benefits. I deserve to make a good living considering my difficult job (which I do love). And then I can spend my money in Philadelphia - it'll serve everyone well. :-) BUT...I think there is money and they are being sneaky and holding out, as usual. Where did 33 million come from all of a sudden? Please.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2013 6:27 am
Step 1: PFT should encourage the 200 rehired secretaries to NOT report to work. We have to at least try to avoid the divide and conquer tactic...
Submitted by Mark Coolman (not verified) on July 31, 2013 10:52 pm
These people should be at work during the day. Oh wait...
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2013 1:57 am
It's time for all PFT members to get answers from silent, wimpy Jerry Jordan. Email him at and also . Flood his email box with demands he actually start acting like a union president and treating his members with respect and not leave members in the dark all the time. Frankly, everyone should tell him to step aside and give the job to someone who has courage and will work for their members-not ignore them. Once again email Jerry Jordan at: and
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2013 5:14 am
Jerry has to keep you in the dark, you have a big mouth and he is trying to negotiate the best contract he can under the circumstances.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2013 4:53 pm
Where is Jerry Jordan? Oh, he went on vacation. Honestly, I didn't think he actually ever came off vacation. As the District, contract mess continues Jordan thought he deserves a beach break. I thought I distinctly remember Jordan stating the PFT leadership will be working hard and long all summer. Everyone can enjoy a vacation -just not at this crucial time when you're the lead negotiator. Just shows how much he really cares about the union or more important members. Email Jerry Jordan and ask what's going on with the contract. layoffs, grievances, and all the other shady stuff the District does.You won't get a reply (no transparency) but demand anyway. Email Jordan at : and
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2013 7:25 am
After the NSA spying scandal, the days of "Just trust us" are over, oh nasty one.

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