While two recent pieces that ran on The Inquirer opinion pages aptly note the school district’s current dire financial situation, they turn a blind eye to the more critical need: sustaining our schools so that today’s and tomorrow’s children receive a quality public education.
The teachers and school employees would take exception to the notion that they aren’t willing to sacrifice for their students. As an editorial — and a recent article by Inquirer staff writer Alfred Lubrano — noted, teachers have for years acted as agents to mitigate the impact of poverty on many of our school children. Not only do they purchase classroom supplies not provided by the district, but food, clothing and other essential items. They do this in schools that represent the most challenging working and learning conditions, for significantly less pay than educators in surrounding districts.
In spite of state Education Secretary William E. Harner’s assertion about that Gov. Corbett has increased education spending in Pennsylvania, our state ranks 44th in education spending nationwide. Additionally, most of Harner’s ideas for teacher workrule reforms would do nothing to improve teaching and learning. For example, extending the hours in schools that lack essential materials, resources and programs while eliminating activities like band, clubs, and sports does not result in a better education; a longer school day does not necessarily equal a better school day.
To some, the teachers’ unnion proposals for creating better schools may be a “wish list.” To us, these proposals are the foundation for better schools. If we continue to let the urgency of the current financial crisis guide our education policy, then we will never see public education flourish in Philadelphia. Shared sacrifice without a shared vision simply means our children will always do without.
Jerry T. Jordan, President Philadelphia Federation of Teachers