500 teachers, supporters rally

More than 500 teachers, counselors, and others rallied outside Philadelphia School District headquarters at 440 N. Broad Street today.  The demonstration was held in advance of the School Reform Commission meeting.

Union members dressed in red waved signs; passing cars honked horns.  

Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan said the union plans to fight against budget cuts and union busting.

“It is going to be virtually impossible for our kids to get the kind of education they need with the kind of cuts they’re proposing,” Jordan told the crowd.  “We’re fighting back because it’s not good for kids.”

Jordan was joined by the heads of the principals’ union and Local 1201, the union representing bus drivers, custodians and other support staff.

“Children are being hurt, and a war is being declared on workers simultaneously. We will not stand by for this,” said Robert McGrogan, president of the Commonwealth Association of School Administrators.

“Where’s the accountability?  The SRC was formed to make sure there was fiscal responsibility.  They have failed the children of Philadelphia,” said George Ricchezza.

After the short rally, most of the 500 streamed into district headquarters, singing "Solidarity forever! Our union makes us strong!" The main auditorium where the SRC meeting is usually held filled up quickly; an overflow crowd was diverted to watch the meeting on TV.

Superintendent Arlene C. Ackerman is not attending the meeting tonight.

The PFT and district are due in Common Pleas Court tomorrow morning.  The PFT won a temporary restraining order halting 1,500 teacher layoffs - it objects to the exemption of 200 teachers at Promise Academies.  The district asked the state Supreme Court to intervene, but there's been no word from the court so far, so it looks like the Common Pleas hearing is a go.