Daniel Denvir, the reporter who has been covering the woes of the School District of Philadelphia for the Philadelphia City Paper, has written a new piece to explain what he believes is the most dangerous consequence of the School Reform Commission’s cancellation of the teachers contract in Philadelphia last Monday. He answers this question: Since teachers in other school districts pay into their health insurance plans, why shouldn’t Philadelphia’s teachers do so as well? I urge you to read and consider Denvir’s new article: Why Health-Care Cuts for Philly Teachers Are Likely to Hurt Schools, Too.
Denvir explains that “as things now stand, Philadelphia teachers are already paid less than their suburban counterparts to teach under far more difficult conditions—conditions that have only gotten worse amid the severe budget crises and deep staffing cuts… At issue is not just an individual teacher’s financial position and morale but, as a consequence, the School District of Philadelphia’s ability to recruit and retain the best educators possible.”
Denvir writes that teachers have essentially been working under a wage freeze: “The PFT (Philadelphia Federation of Teachers) contract expired last summer, and teachers have since been working under a pay freeze. That freeze has denied teachers not only across-the-board hikes typical in past years, but also standard annual raises, known as ‘steps’ and ‘lanes,’ or raises for obtaining advanced degrees. The district tells City Paper that the lane and step freeze has saved about $31 million to date.”
Denvir cites a 2010-2011 analysis by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association documenting that salaries for Philadelphia’s teachers were at that time 19 percent lower than teachers’ salaries in Bucks and Montgomery counties. And due to the school district’s elimination of budget for essentials like copy paper, teachers have been spending often hundreds of dollars for basic supplies.
Denvir quotes Dan Ueda, the former robotics coach at Central High School (an elite magnet school) and teacher of physics, pre-calculus, robotics, engineering and design technology. Ueda recently left that position to join the University of Pennsylvania as a developer of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) programs for local public schools. Ueda describes his working life as a Philadelphia school teacher: “The hours are long, the conditions are extremely difficult at most schools, job security due to constant threat of layoffs is very low, and resources—both material and personnel—get reduced every year. Why would you stay in those conditions if you could teach in safer environments, with more resources, more support, and higher pay in New Jersey or the suburbs? Central High School, one of the best places to work in the city, lost five high-quality teachers last year to private or suburban institutions (myself included) amost completely due to this contract battle.”
Earlier this week this blog covered the state-appointed School Reform Commission’s abrupt cancellation of the teachers’ contract in Philadelphia.