C ITY PUBLIC schools will get a rare influx of cash this week as the school district distributes $15 million in savings as a result of its controversial move to impose health-care benefits on teachers.
The money is the first of three installments this school year totaling about $43.8 million, the district said. Another $15 million is expected to be handed out in early 2015 and $13.8 million in April. The move is expected to save more than $200 million over the next four years.
"We are gratified to be able to provide these funds while also recognizing they are not nearly enough to meet all of our schools' needs," Superintendent William Hite said in a statement.
Principals will decide how to use the money, whether for extracurricular activities, instructional materials and supplies, adding guidance counselors or other supports. Budget cuts last year forced many schools to go without such basics.
The money will be allocated based on school enrollment and academic performance, the district said. Low-performing schools will get $125 per student, and high-performing schools will receive $100 per student. Two of the biggest beneficiaries are Northeast High and Central High, which will get an extra $364,875 and $222,900, respectively.
Despite more money for schools, many students, parents and teachers have opposed the School Reform Commission's decision to unilaterally terminate the contract with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and impose a benefits package, which will result in members paying between 5 percent and 13 percent of their medical premium. Most PFT members had not been paying toward their benefits.
"They're the only thing that's working in our buildings right now," Jenni Desnouee, a mother of two students in the district, said of teachers during a brief protest outside the district's headquarters yesterday. "They [the SRC] need to go, because even if our classrooms are flooded with resources tomorrow, if we've destroyed that bond those resources are useless."
The PFT plans to hold a massive rally outside district headquarters - led by American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten - before today's SRC meeting.
The union supporters are expected to be met by a group of anti-union protesters using the name PFT Fails. The group, which launched a website aimed at informing the public of the alleged failings of the PFT, is run by the Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy Alternatives, a conservative think tank based in Harrisburg, a spokeswoman confirmed yesterday.
The foundation, through PFT Fails, contracted with GoGORILLA Media, a New York advertising and marketing firm, which hired about 12 people to hand out informational fliers and hold up banners during today's protest, said Cindy Hamill-Dahlgren, director of strategic communications at the Commonwealth Foundation.
She said the paid attendees would not be "counterprotesters," but rather would be present to inform the crowd. "We believe the PFT is failing them and they need the money in the classrooms," she said.
"It's not huge," she said. "We want to be there to support the teachers and shine a light on ways that the PFT is failing them."
PFT vice president Arlene Kempin said her members have learned about PFT Fails and the paid protesters and "they are livid."
"Anytime anyone has come to try and divide the membership from the PFT [they have] failed because the membership is the PFT," Kempin said, adding, "We are not paying our people to come to protest."