Our Response to Action United and PFT Attacks

Misguided and inaccurate attacks simply waste time and money, and do nothing to solve the problem. Our children are waiting, and they deserve better.

Action United and its supporters at the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers are spending tens of thousands of dollars to divert the public’s attention away from the real issues at the center of the schools’ crisis. These attacks on Mayor Nutter and the Philadelphia School Partnership ignore the obvious question: When will the PFT step up and be part of a long-term solution that makes schools better for kids?

Without meaningful reforms, more money alone would help to maintain a system in which only one in 10 children from low-income communities is graduating college. In Philadelphia, the average public school teacher today earns $110,000 a year in salary and benefits, including free health care, even as starting salaries barely top $40,000. We should be talking first about reining in the runaway cost of benefits. The PFT could agree for its members to contribute 10 percent of the cost of their health care. Other districts around the region already contribute, as do teachers in many cities across the country. In fact, many pay even more. A 10 percent contribution would generate $25 million for our schools.

Equally important, the PFT could agree that no teacher hiring or transfer decision at any school could occur without the “mutual consent” of the teacher and the principal. Mutual consent would allow principals to hire and retain the right teachers for the needs of students in their schools, not simply those with the most seniority. It’s the single most important reform that could make a huge positive difference in public schools, and what’s more, it could save millions for the schools by reducing turnover and contributing to staffing efficiency.

For the record, we’re trying hard at PSP: We have invested $26 million in public schools over the last two years to improve outcomes for Philadelphia schoolchildren, including nearly $10 million invested in district-run public schools. We’re prepared to do more to achieve a better future for children.

But like the Mayor and every other party to this crisis, we’re waiting to see whether the PFT will step up and participate in the plan to fund a meaningful long-term solution that benefits Philadelphia’s children.

Misguided and inaccurate attacks simply waste time and money, and do nothing to solve the problem. Our children are waiting, and they deserve better.

 

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