Local Control Of Our Schools Now!
Since the 2001 state takeover that created the School Reform Commission, the SRC has led the Philadelphia School District into debt, disarray, and privatization, closing schools, cutting student and family services, and laying off teachers and support staff. We have gone from crisis to crisis, bringing the system no closer to solvency, or to meeting the basic needs of Philly’s working class families. At the same time we have paid the commission’s CEO and senior staff hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in bloated salaries and perks.
The city and school district are bleeding money to Wall Street banks and charter school management companies, while our elected officials refuse to tax the huge corporations and real estate developers earning hefty profits in Pennsylvania. Instead, the response of the SRC is to demand ‘cost savings’ from all its employees to fill the gaping holes left in the school budget by the drastic cuts in federal and state education funding.
In addition to the ongoing, permanent, school budget ‘crisis’, the SRC claims a mandate to reform public education in Philadelphia and has demanded sweeping changes in contract language affecting job protection and work rules for school district workers. In its public statements the SRC claims it wants to make these changes to allow it to ‘keep the good teachers’ and put more resources into the classroom. But the ‘reforms’ that the SRC has demanded include gutting contract language that sets maximum class sizes, teacher prep time, staff to student ratios for school nurses, librarians, and counselors, and minimum health standards requiring clean and private examination rooms for school nurses and students, restrooms, and working drinking fountains. By ‘dissolving’ the teachers contract all these obstacles to ‘reform’ are now wiped away but none of the structural problems of school funding have been solved.
These cuts to the Philly public schools and the brazen attack on teachers and staff have never been about ‘education reform’ or the alleged lack of available resources, but are all about the priorities of the 1% and their politicians in DC, Philadelphia and Harrisburg. Their corporate vision of education reform is all about abandoning the basic principles of public education, lowering the expectations of working class youth, training them for low wage jobs, and turning our schools into another revenue stream to line their pockets at our expense.
For the last 13 years, all attempts by student, community, and teacher activists to fight for full funding for our schools and meaningful education reforms that addresses the needs of Philly’s working class neighborhoods have been ignored and repressed by the unelected SRC. A succession of Democratic and Republican mayors and governors have continually pressured the school district to ‘reform’ the teachers contract. These pro-business politicians and corporate education reformers play a shell game, hiding behind each other, avoiding any accountability for the state of our neighborhoods and schools. The SRC appointees have enjoyed the luxury of ignoring us because they answer only to the politicians, while the politicians claim that they would like to help but there is no money, no options, and their hands are tied by Harrisburg and Act 46.
Now is the time to demand real education reform in Philly. Significant changes will not come unless we are willing to take bold and creative action to stop the assault on public education. The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers can lead a successful fight to defend public education and make real gains in shaping our schools to meet our needs but it will require mobilizing teachers, staff, parents, students and the broader community behind a clear agenda to challenge the corporate ‘reformers’. We cannot depend on the Democratic Party politicians who have run this city for 60 years to save us. We need to build a mass independent working class movement willing to challenge the Democrats and Republicans for political power and fight for our agenda.
- We need local control now! Dissolve the SRC and establish a democratically elected School Board.
- Full Funding Now! Make the 1% Pay! Close the loopholes, corporate subsidies and tax abatements!
- No more Cuts! No more privatization! No more school closings! No more layoffs!
- No more fake ‘reforms’ that implement austerity and attack students, teachers and the quality of life for working class families in Philly.
- We demand a real community dialogue on what we want and need from our schools and who is paying for them.
- Defend Philly Teachers! An injury to one is an injury to all!