IN A SHOW OF solidarity, students at three high schools staged a walkout yesterday to protest the cancellation of the teachers union contract.
Students from the High School for the Creative and Performing Arts in South Philadelphia, Science Leadership Academy in Center City and Franklin Learning Center in North Philadelphia took part in the strike, which lasted until the noon dismissal (yesterday was a scheduled half-day).
"The whole point of this was [Gov.] Tom Corbett basically wants [teachers] . . . to go on strike, but instead we did it for them because they do so much for us," said CAPA senior Madison Nardy, who was among about 170 CAPA students who chanted and held signs outside the school as passing motorists honked in support.
Leo Levy, a junior at SLA, said about 250 students gathered and marched around the school. He insisted that students took the action on their own to show support for teachers. "We're also trying to illustrate to detractors and people who might be confused about teenage engagement in this problem how invested and engaged students are in their education."
About 25 students from Franklin Learning Center demonstrated outside the district's headquarters, a district spokesman said.
The protests came days after the School Reform Commission took the unprecedented step of terminating the contract with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and imposing new health-care benefits after 21 months of negotiations. The district said PFT members, who currently pay nothing toward their health-care plan, will have to pay 10 percent to 13 percent for their medical coverage. The move, the district said, will bring Philadelphia in line with other school districts and save about $54 million this year and $245 million over the next four years, helping restore resources to schools.
But Cy Wolfe, a CAPA junior who organized the strike on social media, said having good teachers outweighs the so-called savings. "[The money] would help in the sense that we would have more supplies, but . . . people don't really care if they have paper, or textbooks or pencils. If you don't have a teacher that knows you and knows how to teach you and knows what your school is like, then what's the point?"
State law bans the PFT from going on strike, but union president Jerry Jordan vowed Monday to fight back, saying nothing was off the table, including a potential walkout. A PFT spokesman said the union was scheduled to hold a conference call last night to answer questions from members and discuss potential action, although no strike vote would be taken.
Police said no protesters were arrested yesterday, and District Spokesman Fernando Gallard said student protesters will not be disciplined.
Levy said no additional strikes are planned, but students could walkout again. "Now that we have made our point of view abundantly clear . . . it's up to the SRC to act on it or see us strike again. A lot of students are ready, willing and able to be more involved if that becomes necessary."