Around the city, teachers protest

Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan joins the protesting teachers, staff and students in front of Mayfair Elementary School. (Clem Murray / Staff)

Around the city on Tuesday morning, teachers stood outside public schools before classes began and waved signs, chanted and handed out flyers detailing the impact of $629 million in proposed budget cuts.

It was part of a citywide “informational picket” planned by the Philadelphia School District’s teachers’ union. 

PFT president Jerry Jordan stood on the lines himself at two schools in the Northeast, Lincoln High and Mayfair Elementary.

“These cuts would be devastating,” Jordan said.  “It would be the beginning of the total end here in Philadelphia.”

Cars honked as teachers held up brightly colored signs that said “Art, Music, Libraries, Teachers, Counselors Aren’t Frills” and “Yale or Jail? Fund Our Schools, Not Our Prisons.”

Jordan said that his staff reported turnout was good at pickets around the city.  In some cases, administrators joined teachers on picket line.

“It’s a really strong showing,” said Jordan.

District officials have proposed a $2.8 billion budget that includes deep cuts to programs and employees. More than 3,000 jobs would be cut, including about 1,200 teacher positions; full-day kindergarten would be eliminated; virtually all transportation money would vanish.

There would be less money for special education, English language-learner services, facilities, athletics and other programs.

“Philadelphia is not funded at the same level as many of the surrounding districts,” Jordan said.  “If we get cut more, our kids are not going to be as successful as they have been over the past eight years.”

About 30 parents joined teachers outside Dobson Elementary in Manayunk, a small K-8 school of about 250 students that would lose 27 percent of its budget, including five teachers, a full-time librarian and a graphics program that was just implemented.

“These cuts are brutal,” Dobson Principal Patricia Cruice said.  “I don’t know what we’re going to do.”

House Republicans are expected to propose a new budget Tuesday in Harrisburg that would restore some of the cuts to education, but it’s not clear how much support the new spending plan will have.

District officials say they cautiously cheered by the proposal, which restores money to a grant previously used to pay for full-day kindergarten.  Chief Financial Office Michael Masch said the proposal, if passed, “means that the prospects for restoring the cuts in kindergarten are getting better.”