PFT prez sets the record straight on school conversions

Teacher's union president, Jerry Jordan, wants to set the record straight. He is against the privatization of public schools.

In an emailed message to his membership today, Jordan said that the PFT never negotiated turning district schools into charters.

He addressed the issue after receiving a flood of messages from PFT members who castigated the PFT for negotiating contract language to convert their schools to charter schools, which he said never took place.

In fact, the day the district announced they would turn over six more schools into charters as part of their Renaissance program, Jordan released a statement admonishing the district for its decision. And in an interview with me that day, he reiterated his discontent with the process.

Supt. Ackerman and her administration recently announced that six more schools will be turned into charter schools. Twelve others will be changed to a version of her Promise Academies.

"The PFT never negotiated contract language to turn free and open public schools into charter schools, and going back more than a dozen years, I and other members marched, lobbied and protested to stop laws that we feared would undermine public education," he wrote.

In bullet point fashion, Jordan also reminded members of the following:

• "We protested in front of the old Board of Education building at 21st and the Parkway to stop the governor from using Act 46 to seize control of the School District of Philadelphia."

• "We marched down Broad Street to City Hall, snarling rush hour traffic, to draw attention to the extreme and punitive measures the law permitted under the guise of reform."

• "We sued in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court urging justices to declare Act 46 unconstitutional."

He also reminded members that as a result legislative decisions by the state (ACT 46) and on the federal level (No Child Left Behind), districts were within their right to convert public schools into charter schools, without the input of teachers, parents and staff and reconstitute chronically failing schools, removing the existing employees and bringing in new ones.

"The Renaissance schools language negotiated by this union was designed to do what good schools already do: collaborate, work as a team and share responsibility for improving student achievement at under-performing district-run schools," he said.

"We knew that without language affirming our willingness to work collaboratively with the district, the administration – under pressure from powerful forces pushing a privatization agenda – would give many more schools to charter companies to operate."

He also assured faculty at schools that will be overhauled that representatives from the PFT will be at every meeting the district has scheduled at their respective schools.

"We will make sure the information you are given is accurate, protect your rights and fight to see that all vacancies are filled by displaced PFT members," he said.