Philadelphia teachers and students launched a fight back in the week 6-12 October against unprecedented austerity measures affecting teachers’ pay.
The School Reform Commission (SRC), who were put in place to oversee schools in the area which have suffered from low exam scores due to factors including underfunding in the system, has chosen to implement cuts of $54 million to teachers’ contracts to offset the underfunding, leaving them stripped of rights to free health insurance and a subsequent cut to their monthly salary of up to $150.
The Philadelphian Federation of Teachers (PFT), led by Jerry Jordan with a membership of 135,000, is not taking this manoeuvre lightly and is filing a law suit, claiming the decision to be illegal. Jordan has also attacked the move as political, suggesting it is a union busting tactic as well as being a propaganda tool for the Republican Governor’s election next month.
Not only this, but school teachers have launched a campaign called “Turn Up for Truth” and were rallying against the measures outside schools this week, leafleting and making the public aware of the reality that teachers are already forking out huge sums of money from their own pockets to buy resources for their students. They can’t afford a further squeeze and shouldn’t have to. On Wednesday, school students went on strike to show solidarity with their teachers and protested outside the Philadelphian High School for Creative and Performing Arts.
The austerity measures arise from the Philadelphian district’s “fiscal difficulties”; over the past year they have made a billion dollars worth of savings by making cuts to funding and jobs in the area.
The district say that the $54 million cut will allow them to pour $30 million back into school resourcing including the re-hiring of school counsellors who had previously faced cuts and redundancy. It will also use the remaining $24 million to ensure there is no deficit in the district next year.