We are encouraged that the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers is now saying its members will make a contribution toward health benefits, which have increased dramatically in cost over the past decade and now account for nearly 10% of the School District’s entire budget. This is common practice in other school districts and is a necessary part of addressing the funding crisis.
But this is not just a fiscal crisis. It’s an education crisis, and much more is needed. In many schools, the likelihood of students ultimately graduating from college is only one in 10. Without real reforms, Philadelphia will only prop up a system that has under-served poor and minority students for decades. All over the city, right now, the district’s forced-transfer policy is assigning teachers to schools based solely on seniority, regardless of the needs of the students in those schools. Reforms such as “mutual consent”- ensuring that teachers are hired or transferred only when both the teacher and the principal agree that it’s a good fit – are needed to help schools meet the needs of their particular students. It’s the single most important reform that would put student needs first, and what’s more, it could save millions by ultimately reducing turnover and contributing to staffing efficiency.
We hope today’s announcement by the PFT is the beginning of a serious conversation about the total package of solutions that will make schools better places to both work and learn in Philadelphia. Our children deserve nothing less.