Last month, student activists from the Philadelphia Student Union - pupils at city public schools - staged a protest at a screening of the film "Won't Back Down," held at school headquarters and hosted by School Reform Commissioner Sylvia Simms.
Students present at the event said that as they were chanting to disrupt the film, Simms yelled at them, telling them they "probably attend failing schools."
Simms, in an Inquirer interview after the event, denied the charge. She said that she has "noticed we have a lot of failing schools. It's my job to try as fix as many schools as I can."
Join me Tuesday at noon for a live chat on Philadelphia schools. As always, things are hopping - from the school whose entire discretionary budget is $160 to a recently-filed education funding lawsuit, there's plenty to discuss.
School districts, parents, an organization representing small and rural school systems and the state NAACP on Monday filed a lawsuit against Gov. Tom Corbett, state education officials and legislative leaders, saying that Pennsylvania fails to uphold its constitutional obligation to educate children adequately.
Plaintiffs of the suit, filed in Commonwealth Court, include two Philadelphia School District parents and the William Penn School District in Delaware County.
State officials have "adopted an irrational school funding system that does not deliver the essential resources students need and discriminates against children based on where they live and the wealth of their communities," say the plaintiffs, who are represented by the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia and the Education Law Center-PA.
A judge has made permanent an injunction barring the School Reform Commission from making changes to 11,200 Philadelphia Federation of Teachers' benefits. The SRC attempted to unilaterally cancel the PFT contract on Oct. 6, a move it said would save millions annually.
The Philadelphia School District immediately appealed Common Pleas Court Judge Nina Wright Padilla's ruling, according to court documents filed Tuesday morning. The appeal will be heard in Commonwealth Court.
Both sides said the ruling was a victory for them. The parties agreed to the terms of the judge's order.
The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers has filed its legal response to the School Reform Commission's move to cancel its contract, challenging the district's move on several fronts.
"We feel the SRC's attack last week was not only cowardly and disrespectful, but lacking legal merit," PFT President Jerry Jordan said in a statement.
The action comes the morning after 3,000 PFT members and supporters shut down North Broad Street in a rally protesting the SRC's actions.
More than 1,000 teachers and union supporters gathered Thursday afternoon outside the headquarters of the School District of Philadelphia to protest the School Reform Commission's cancellation of the teachers' contract earlier this month.
The crowd spilled into the street, blocking traffic in front of 440 N. Broad St., where the commission began a meeting at 5:30 p.m. As of 7:20, people continued to give testimony to the embattled panel.
Kristen Graham and Martha Woodall
In a stunning move that could reshape the face of city schools, the Philadelphia School Reform Commission voted Monday to unilaterally cancel its teachers’ contract. The vote was unanimous.
The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers was given no advance word of the action — which happened at an early-morning SRC meeting called with minimal notice — and which figures to result in a legal challenge to the takeover law the SRC believes gives it the power to bypass negotiations and impose terms.
Jerry Jordan, PFT president, called the move "cowardly" and vowed to fight it strongly.
A School Reform Commission meeting for "general purposes" has been scheduled for this morning at 9:30.
The next regularly scheduled meeting was October 16, but Monday's meeting was called very recently - advertised in a small legal notice in the Sunday Inquirer and with a press release sent by Philadelphia School District staff shortly after 7 a.m.
On Twitter, Philadelphia School District watchers have already begun expressing fury that the meeting was arranged so hastily and with so little public notice.