For nearly three hours Thursday night, the School Reform Commission listened to harsh and bitter criticism of its move last week to cancel its contract with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and unliaterally change health benefits for the union's 11,500 members.
There have been no meaningful teachers' contract negotiations all summer because District leaders have declined to schedule any talks, union leaders told several hundred members who came to a general membership meeting Tuesday.
Teachers are returning to school this week without a contract, facing bare-bones conditions in schools but still under pressure to agree to contract changes that would save the District about $30 million.
Flanked by four members of the School Reform Commission, Superintendent William Hite announced Friday morning that Philadelphia schools would open on time Sept. 8, but that another round of "difficult and hopefully temporary" cuts would be made to narrow the District's $81 million deficit.
Here are five key points about the School District's latest plan for dealing with its budget gap.
1. Temporary cuts and budget adjustments totaling $32 million were announced. These include discontinuing TransPasses for 7,500 high school students who live less than two miles from school, eliminating 300 slots in alternative programs for students at risk of dropping out, making 27 more elementary schools share police officers, reducing school cleaning and repairs, cutting extra professional development time at the District's Promise Academies, and eliminating some administrative positions. "These are cuts we want to treat as temporary," Hite said. "We want to restore them."
Lisa Haver, a retired teacher and a founder of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools (APPS), is a fixture at School Reform Commission meetings and a consistent advocate for transparency, adequate funding, and a strong union role in public education.
“Public schools must continue to be a civic enterprise where district policies and decisions are formulated in public forums,” says the APPS mission statement, “not a financial enterprise controlled by corporate interests."
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.]