You have probably heard by now that the Philadelphia School Reform Commission unilaterally canceled the collective bargaining agreement with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. In order to close a budget deficit the commission wants union members to contribute to their health insurance, which they do not do now.
Of course, that was enough to anger the union, but the commission hit even closer to home when it decided to stop using the PFT trust as the district’s health insurance provider. So the battle flags were unfurled and we can expect the usual.
The first round of wacky began with the district’s Parent University – a program to increase parental engagement – sponsoring a movie night featuring Won’t Back Down, a film produced by Walden Media that champions parent trigger laws and criticizes teachers’ unions.
Why anyone thought this was a good idea under the current circumstances is a mystery, but it elicited a predictable response in a student protest during the screening.
“The School Reform Commission decided to show a movie that blames teachers and their unions for the state of public education,” said student Avery McNair. “It’s the government that should be blamed for the budget deficit, not teachers.”
“They’re showing a propaganda film in order to manipulate parents to support how the SRC cancelled the teachers’ contract last week,” said McNair. “If students don’t stand up for themselves and for their teachers, it’s just going to keep spiraling downward. We deserve the same quality of education as the suburbs.”
Well-spoken, if it weren’t for the fact that McNair is a student at the Charter High School for Architecture and Design, which doesn’t have unionized teachers or a collective bargaining agreement. What’s more, the school supports the Save My Charter project, which calls for equal funding and expansion of charter schools in Philadelphia. Its web site notes, “There are still many organizations and legislators who would prefer to see charter schools abolished in Pennsylvania.” Who might they be?
If that weren’t confusing enough, there are a handful of unionized charter schools in Philadelphia, whose members want equal respect within AFT for the work they do, while at the same time committing to “fight the expansion of charter schools.”
There is plenty of blame to go around for the district’s fiscal condition. What we are seeing is the inevitable result of the gravy train going off the rails.