Teachers' union officials wrapped up a whirlwind week of protests and rallies by calling Friday on the School Reform Commission to scuttle its plans to cancel the union’s contract and come back to the bargaining table.
“What has been created in Philadelphia is not good for the children,” said Jerry Jordan, head of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, as he sat before a host of Democratic legislators, union leaders, community advocates, and teachers.
Linnea Hunter has changed the student behavior charts on the wall of her 3rd-grade class at Paul L. Dunbar Elementary School.
Marie Acevedo, a bilingual counselor at Lincoln High School, has installed a filter over the fluorescent lights in her office, giving it a softer, more welcoming atmosphere.
Denise Burrage, an autistic support teacher at Thomas K. Finletter School, said she has improved her communication with a hard-to-reach student, sensing his aversion to loud noise and the times when he wants to be complimented and those when he doesn’t.
All three are among the 102 School District of Philadelphia staffers from 69 schools to complete courses in the past year in trauma-informed care. This is a technical term for dealing with students by shifting the focus from “What’s wrong with you?” to “What happened to you?”
The recent controversial move by the School Reform Commission to cancel the teachers’ union contract is indicative of the morass that is our public education system. Amid the backdrop of a District in permanent financial and political crisis, we are engulfed in a failing national debate about education reform. Addressing educational inequalities and the lack of social opportunity for kids has been lost between the two sides of the debate.
One side believes that dissolving the public system and replacing it with a diverse “marketplace of schools” will solve our problems. Yet that “marketplace” has not systematically produced better results.
The Notebook was launched in 1994 as a newspaper committed to ensuring quality and equity in Philadelphia public schools. We celebrated the 20th anniversary of the first publication this spring. We are featuring an article from our archives each week, shedding light on both the dramatic changes that have taken place in public education and the persistent issues facing Philadelphia's school system.
This piece is from the Summer 2001 print edition:
by Keith Look
A growing body of research shows K-8 schools to be effective in improving student achievement in the middle grades.
The District giveth, and the District taketh away -- at least for some Philadelphia schools.
Principals got a memo Wednesday offering additional per pupil allocations for their schools as a result of the School Reform Commission's move to cancel the teachers' contract and cut health-care costs.
[Update, 10/15: The District has finalized the amounts to be received by schools in this first round. Very few school allocations changed, but the earlier spreadsheet slightly misstated the enrollment at some schools.]
But for many principals, it was no windfall. At dozens of schools, the extra money was accompanied by a decrease in teacher allotment because of “leveling,” or the adjustment of staff size to match actual, instead of projected, student enrollment.
The District promptly released the school-by-school breakdown of additional funds and changes to teacher allotments Thursday afternoon in response to a request from the Notebook.
Dear SRC: I'm recovering from surgery. And teaching full time. Thanks for decreasing my health benefits in secret. #phled— Larissa Pahomov (@Lpahomov) October 6, 2014
Almost exactly a month ago, I wrote about recovering from surgery and going back to work.
Then, on Monday, my school district had a stealth meeting to cancel my union’s contract and impose health - care benefits changes onto staff.
In response, I sent out a tweet that was personal, but important to me.
On Monday, Philadelphia public-school teachers reported to work, as they always do, in a workplace fraught with the most dangerous of all pitfalls: hope.
In the wake of budget cuts, they report to work daily with the hope that the children will be settled; that hallways will be clean; that classrooms will be equipped with luxuries like paper and chalk.
But there is one more hope they carry with them constantly — the hope that they will have a normal day.
We call bulls*** on the SRC. Al Dia
Politicians exploiting teachers' plight. Inquirer
School Reform, Philadelphia Style. Education Next
Strong Appetite Among Parents for Improving Public Education. Education Post
Philadelphia students refused to attend classes at two District high schools Wednesday morning to express solidarity with their teachers, who students think have been mistreated by the School Reform Commission.
On Monday, the SRC unilaterally terminated the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers contract. With the agreement out of the way, the School District says teachers will now begin paying for a share of their health care premiums, a move they say will give classrooms an additional $44 million worth of resources this year.
In forcing the city's teachers' union to accept cuts to its members' health care benefits, the School Reform Commission said the move will allow the financially battered School District to inject $44 million back into schools this year.
To seek clarity on the legal authority of breaking the collective bargaining agreement with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, the District and the state Department of Education filed suit asking the Commonwealth Court for a declaratory judgment that affirms the SRC's right to make its unilateral move.
On Radio Times this morning, host Marty Moss-Coane delved into the controversy surrounding the School Reform Commission's dramatic decision to cancel the contract with the city teachers' union and force health benefits changes on its members.
Joining her on the program were WHYY/NewsWorks education reporter Kevin McCorry for an overview of the situation, new SRC member Marjorie Neff, and PFT president Jerry Jordan, with their reactions to the SRC's decision.
Students 'strike' in support of teachers. Inquirer
Philly students on strike for their teachers. Billy Penn
SRC benefits overhaul could be a game-changer. Daily News
The ugly facts of life in Philadelphia public schools. Washington Post
The Plot Against Public Education. Politico
Members of the Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools, Fight for Philly, and Pennsylvania's Working Families Party assembled outside Gov. Corbett's Philadelphia office Monday afternoon to protest the School Reform Commission's decision to unilaterally impose terms on the city's teachers' union.