Philadelphia’s teachers are under sustained attack from their employers as they fight to provide a good education to young people in one of the lowest income cities in the USA.
As we reported last week, Philadelphia’s teachers are under sustained attack from their employers as they fight to provide a good education to young people in one of the lowest income cities in the USA. Teachers’ contracts were cancelled in a 15 minute meeting of the school board, which is controlled by the Pennsylvania State.
Today a demonstration outside the School District headquarters is planned by the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT). Meanwhile a group calling itself PFTFails is arranging a counter ‘protest.’ The ‘protesters’ are being paid by the Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy Alternatives. This outfit was set up by a group of CEOs and other business leaders in Pennsylvania, to promote free market ideology and attack public sector unions, particularly teachers. The foundation has hired the New York based GoGorilla media firm to provide the protesters. It explains it is necessary to do that because the group ‘has few members in Southeastern Pennsylvania and wanted help getting its message out.’ An advert is calling for ‘2 team leaders, 10 brand ambassadors and 6 backups’ to go to the teachers protest, hand out leaflets and wave banners, for which they will be paid $100 – $120.
Philadelphia teachers have huge support both from students and parents who know how hard they have to work in very poor conditions, after suffering years of cuts in public schools as money is syphoned off into charter schools and the mass construction of prisons. Teachers have taken on extra responsibilities like counselling and lunch time duties to try and make up for the cuts as well as buying supplies out of their own pockets. As one teacher said: ‘I am not a volunteer and I am not a saint, I am a teacher.’ So the rent-a-crowd ‘protesters’ are likely to be outnumbered manyfold, since parents, students and other unions are planning to turn up in support of the teachers.
The local union confederation had been considering calling a general strike in support of the teachers, however the local leadership of the PFT has chosen to ‘exhaust all legal avenues.’ Such hesitancy is in marked contrast to the Philly Students Union which has staged a series of walkouts and protests in support of the teachers.
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