RIGHT NOW, students around the country are going back to school. They are excited, and maybe a bit nervous.
But students in Philadelphia this year have much more to wrestle with. On Sept. 9, these students will step into schools with overcrowded classrooms. Split-grade classrooms. Fleeting music, art and extracurricular activities. If college is an aspiration, as it should be, or if things are rough in a student's life, he or she may be out of luck, as there will be precious few counselors, if any, to advise. Some schools don't even have a plan for who will give insulin shots with only one nurse serving 1,500 students.
And that's why last week, in order to restore services for kids and make sure that our schools are safer and more adequately resourced, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers offered to sacrifice once more - proposing a pay freeze and health-care concessions. Philadelphia's educators have always been willing to do their part.
Instead of working with teachers, Mayor Nutter chose to attack them and go after their voice. That's not the leadership our kids deserve. It's unconscionable that Mayor Nutter would call the real concerns of parents and teachers a "distraction." It's indefensible that he would call proposed concessions a "disappointment."
Although a recent editorial in the Daily News claimed otherwise, Mayor Nutter absolutely has a role in funding Philadelphia schools and, more importantly, in doing everything in his power to help his city provide children a great public education. He admitted as much himself in a #dropthemic tweet where he crowed about the funds he's raised for Philly schools. And what about the fact that two of the five School Reform Commission members are the mayor's appointees?
The reality is that Mayor Nutter has dropped the ball. But there are things Mayor Nutter could do right now to shore up money for Philadelphia schools. He could call on his SRC appointees to take action on the credit-interest rate swaps that have cost Philadelphia schools millions. He could improve the enforcement of school taxes. He could work with the City Council to pass an increase in the corporate use and occupancy tax. He could ask wealthy nonprofits to pay their fair share. He could call for a full audit of charter-school operators - at least one of whom we know owes Philly schools $3 million - and advocate that charters play by the same rules as neighborhood public schools.
But he's not doing those things. Instead, Mayor Nutter has joined Gov. Corbett in scapegoating hardworking educators. That is neither right nor fair.
Gov. Corbett manufactured this crisis to score points. He is starving our schools, denying children the education they deserve, and then blaming teachers for the crisis to boost his re-election-support in the Philadelphia suburbs.
We need Mayor Nutter to pick up the mic and use his position of power to pressure Gov. Corbett and the School Reform Commission. We need Mayor Nutter to take the proposed concessions seriously and work with us toward a solution. We need Mayor Nutter to stop scapegoating teachers and flippantly dismissing the concerns of parents and students.