FRIDAY marks a sad anniversary for the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers: the 1,000th day that the hardworking women and men of the PFT have gone without a contract.
For 1,000 days, the educators in this city have had their financial stability shattered, working conditions ignored, legal rights trampled upon and livelihood marred by a cloud of uncertainty.
During this time, many of us have seen our classrooms swell to 60 students per class each September because the School Reform Commission refuses to hire enough teachers. We have witnessed Superintendent William Hite's dismal outsourcing of our substitute system as we are forced to give up our lunches to cover for substitute teachers who never show up. We have seen our non-teaching assistants, who provide hallway security, fired. Practically all of our librarians were laid off, as school libraries remain shuttered. Our secretarial numbers have been slashed, putting even more of a burden on our already overworked school-based administration. The ranks of our counselors have been decimated to the point at which they can hardly handle their caseloads. Our nurses are stretched so thin that we even witnessed the tragic death of two precious young children.
And yet, for 1,000 days, we have continued to faithfully serve the students.
We show up to work, each and every day, eager to do our own little part to make this world a better place. We continue to do our duty to build up hope for the future of society's most precious assets and for the future of this city.
But what of our future?
Over the past 1,000 days, I personally lost $21,413 in promised wage and degree increases because of our frozen contract.Central High's members calculated we alone have given back over $1.5 million. Multiply these numbers by the 218 district schools and the 12,000 members in the PFT who also had their promised wage and degree increases frozen, and one begins to understand the true magnitude of financial sacrifice the PFT members have been asked to shoulder.
Yet what of the shared sacrifice shown by the SRC and by Hite? As we struggle in our understaffed and underfunded schools, watching our personal bank accounts dwindle, the SRC awards $10,000 performance bonuses to members of Hite's administrative team. In 2014, as we entered our second year without a contract, Hite secretly took a $30,000 raise. Finally, to add insult to injury, the SRC just awarded Hite a new five-year contract at a salary of $300,000 - while continuing to spend millions of dollars in its legal battle to keep us from obtaining a fair contract.
And now, the SRC and Hite have the gall to tell the media the district has a "surplus" of nearly $134 million? That surplus was built on the sacrifice of the 12,000 PFT members who have gone too long without a collective bargaining agreement and had to put up with the failed policies of an unelected and autocratic school board.
One thousands days is not a milestone to be proud of for anyone who believes in public education and loves this city.
It's time to give the PFT a fair contract so that the hardworking employees can stop worrying about their own financial security and get back to the important task at hand - educating the next generation of Philadelphians.