Superintendent Hite wants the Teacher’s Union to make financial concessions in the new contract that will total nearly 133 million dollars and 45 million from administrative and support staff unions. This 178 million will be added to the 83 million the school district has already collected and then the magical 45 million from Harrisburg will be released. This totals 261 million dollars that still falls short of the needed 304 million. These concessions include a cut in pay and a contribution to benefits. If that is not enough, Ramos, a member of the SRC appealed to Harrisburg for complete SRC control over contracts, salaries, and benefits. None of these concessions and ideas will reduce classroom size (contracted 33 to 1) nor bring back all of the staff necessary to have an equitable and successful school year.
Well, well, well, so what will this possible pay reduction mean for the teachers from the City of Brotherly Love?
The average salary for a Philadelphia public school teacher ranges from $45,360 to $83,381. This number is lessened by union dues, supplies, snacks for students, more supplies, cost of living, and more supplies. The average family household is a family of 4 with 1.5 incomes. CNN stated during the bank bailout that $120,000 was not enough to provide for the average family and that additional bonuses were necessary for survival. The irony.
Twenty-four states have already passed a Right to Work law in order to give teachers the choice to pay or not pay dues. In this state of emergency, where teachers are being vilified and pensions are being gutted or simply borrowed from, I believe that a strong union with paying members is vital. But, if other states have pushed it we should be very aware that it may come here soon.
In order to be a Highly-Qualified teacher you must earn a Master’s degree and at times pay for additional graduate courses. If you re-locate to this great state and take the certification exams that incurs additional costs. At times, an additional math or English course is required before you can even receive your certificate. None of these additional educational costs are reimbursed and the School District of Philadelphia grants each teacher a mere $100 for supplies. Depending on the grade level and subject, teachers spend annually approximately $1000 and more on supplies for their classrooms. Depending on your neighborhood it may cost even more to compensate for those students who cannot afford basic supplies.
Lastly, Ramos is pushing for a charter school style leadership model where all of the decisions about contracts, salaries, and benefits are made top-down. I have worked in a charter school where each teacher had a different salary and the CAO was paid an exorbitant six figure salary. This is not the solution.
Philadelphia pays the least in the state per pupil. Pittsburgh pays twice as much at nearly $20,000 per pupil. The state also pays the least on racial minorities per pupil out of the major states. What can we do? What should we do? It is time to gather attorneys and find out what can be done. This is an attack on the poor and disenfranchised.
We can write, rally, walk, march, protest, and sign petitions. But, at the end of the day most of our legal rights have been gutted over the last 10 years and the powers that be are very aware of our vulnerability and weakness. If the concessions are passed, it will not stop there. Next, laws will be passed that increase the retirement age for teachers to 65 and soon to 70 (Look to Chicago and Social Security). Americans do not pay their fair share of taxes and privatization is about to erase the middle class creating simply two classes, the poor and the rich. The buck stops here and we need to take this school district back so that we can fight on fair ground because at this point it looks like we are battling quick sand.
If you are seeking additional articles to read please check out Daniel Denvir's piece, "Who's Killing Philly Public Schools?" and "In the City of Corporate Love and Beyond: The Boston Consulting Group, Gates and the Filthy Rich