He’s at it again.
The Philadelphia educator who raised thousands to place a billboard on I-95 shaming the School Reform Commission, superintendent, and mayor for the lack of a Philadelphia Federation of Teachers contract is asking for donations again.
This time, George Bezanis’ sights are set on a banner plane that would fly a pro-contract message during the NFL draft, when hundreds of thousands of people are expected to crowd Center City. The draft is scheduled for April 27 to 29.
Bezanis, a teacher at Central High, has raised more than $800 to date via a crowdfunding site. Once he raises $1,300, he can put a plane in the air for an hour. If he raises $2,000, the plane can circle the Ben Franklin Parkway for several hours.
Donors will determine what message the plane will tote. Those who chip in get to choose from among 10 possible messages, from the more tame “Philly Teachers Should Always Be the #1 Pick” to the pointed “City Hall Hearts Sports But Hates Our Teachers.”
“Some of those are pretty embarrassing,” Bezanis said of the choices, which he culled from social media. “It’s a shame that I have to basically shame the city and the School District into trying to get us a fair contract.”
Beginning in February, Bezanis raised money to place a billboard on I-95 with a similar theme. The ad, just north of the Center City exit on the interstate, ran for all of March and part of April. Bezanis had hoped to run it indefinitely but got priced out when ad space got more expensive because of the NFL draft, he said.
Bezanis, who is acting alone and not on behalf of the teachers’ union, said he received no official response about the billboard, which attracted national attention. But he said he heard from those who work in City Hall and the School District that it got people talking.
Philadelphia teachers have been without a contract for almost four years and without a raise nearly five. Some teachers have lost tens of thousands of dollars in promised pay increases without a contract.
The city and School District have taken issue with Bezanis' message in the past. Both sides say they are doing their best to get a fair contract.