The legal battle over whether Philadelphia's School Reform Commission has the power to unilaterally impose new work rules on the District's teachers is getting more intense with the filing of new arguments urging quick action by the Supreme Court.
In a friend-of-the-court brief filed Friday, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) maintains that "the collective bargaining agreement ... has proven a particularly high barrier to the District effecting reforms essential to providing services in a fiscally responsible and manageable manner."
Gov. Corbett delivered his annual budget address in Harrisburg yesterday, indicating that public school funding would see an increase of $369 million. Two-thirds of that – $241 million – will be directed to the "Ready to Learn" block grant focused on early learning, STEM education, and supplemental instruction. Basic education funding, however, remained flat. Philadelphia will get a $29 million increase through the grant program.
The Notebook gathered reactions to the budget proposal from several education advocates and organizations.
by Naveed Ahsan
Teachers, parents, students, and education activists will gather at 4:30 p.m. today outside Gov. Corbett’s Philadelphia office, 200 S. Broad St., as part of the National Day of Action to Reclaim the Promise of Public Education.
Education advocates will stage actions in more than 60 cities across the country, demanding better schools for America’s children. The day of action was planned by an alliance of teachers' unions and community groups to fight back against what they see as an unprecedented attack on the public school system.
Hundreds are expected to convene outside Corbett’s office, including members of the Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools (PCAPS), the Rev. Kevin Johnson of Bright Hope Baptist Church, and Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan.
by Isaac Riddle
About 50 parents, teachers, students, and community members joined Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan in a protest about budget cuts outside of Vare-Washington Elementary School on Wednesday afternoon.
The group gathered to voice concerns over the latest loss of programs and services at the South Philadelphia school and to talk about the impact the District’s leveling efforts will have on a school already hurting from staffing shortages brought on by districtwide budget cuts.
If the events of the last few years make anything clear, it's that teachers need a strong union.
The School Reform Commission -- backed by the governor, the mayor, and self-appointed civic elites -- has launched a full-scale attack on the living standards and professional status of teachers. The union, supported by significant community allies as well as other unions, is waging a campaign of resistance.
A big target of the corporate reform agenda is the principle of seniority. I think that eliminating seniority would be the first step toward the reduction of teaching from a lifelong profession to a Peace Corps model favored by the likes of Michelle Rhee, founder of StudentsFirst, and Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach for America.
by Holly Otterbein for NewsWorks
The Philadelphia teachers' union said that it is putting on hold a new ad that blasts Mayor Nutter and Gov. Corbett over the School District's budget woes.
George Jackson, spokesman for the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, said the union has made the decision because Nutter and PFT president Jerry Jordan have scheduled a private meeting this week.
"We think we got [Nutter's] attention," Jackson said. "In the interest of fostering a productive dialogue, for right now, we're going to suspend the ads."
[Update: The ad reportedly aired on NBC10 Wednesday after the PFT said it was pulled. Jackson said there was a "miscommunication" with the station, and that it should be off the airwaves by Thursday.]
Negotiators for the School District and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers reached the midnight deadline without reaching agreement on a new contract.
PFT president Jerry Jordan said in an interview that the two sides "made some progress," although there were still many unresolved issues.
Asked whether the two sides were still far apart, he said, "There are a number of outstanding issues. We were not close enough to close the deal."
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.
by Kelly Lawlor for NewsWorks
Even after last week's deal in the Pennsylvania legislature to help the Philadelphia School District, 3,800 teachers and support staff laid off in June still do not know whether they will be back at work in the fall.
Those teachers and staff now face the choice of waiting to see whether they can stay with the District, or diving into the job market.
The last time Anissa Weinraub was laid off, she was rehired to her position as a Philadelphia high school English teacher. She's planning on waiting again this time, while continuing to advocate for Philadelphia schools and students.
by Holly Otterbein for NewsWorks and Dale Mezzacappa for the Notebook
Pennsylvania's Gov. Corbett urged state lawmakers Wednesday to pass a stalled bill that provides an extra $45 million for Philadelphia’s cash-strapped schools under certain conditions.
“Legislative leaders need to resolve their differences and act responsibly to send the [bill] to my desk for approval,” Corbett said in a statement.
The General Assembly’s Republican leaders do not oppose the schools funding, which is a tiny piece of a large budget-related bill called the "fiscal code." The disagreement is over language that the House inserted into the bill at the eleventh hour, which would have pushed for payday lending in the state. The Senate erased that language Wednesday, so now the bill must head back to the House for approval.
The problem? The House has recessed. Its next scheduled voting session isn’t until September.