On Thursday, March 28, the Caucus delivered a petition signed by nearly one quarter of the entire Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, demanding that the School District of Philadelphia abate the toxic building conditions in our schools.
The demands are:
- Make a plan to remediate all lead, mold, and asbestos - in all of our schools - NOW
- Make a plan to treat all rodent infestations in all of our schools - no
- Make a plan to overhaul all heating and cooling systems in our schools - now
- Fund this repair with an end to the 10-year tax abatements on large property owners in Philadelphia and collecting Payments in Lieu of Taxes from universities like UPenn.
The petition was signed by over 3,300 educators, parents, students and community members, the majority of whom were PFT members. The petition has signatures from over 100 schools in the District -- representing nearly half of the schools in the District. This is a huge victory for our rank and file, in our fight for racial and economic justice, and in the fight against dispossession of public education in Philadelphia.
One hundred educators were present at tonight’s Board of Education meeting. The petition was delivered via email after the Board of Education went into recess after student protests on the vote for mandatory metal detectors.
WE will deliver the petition to City Council members on Monday, April 15th at 4:30PM on the 4th floor of City Hall -- RSVP HERE! WE will also present the petition in person at the April Board of Education meeting.
HOW DID WE DO IT?
Last year, rank and file PFT members knew that it was time to build a campaign to end the toxic conditions in our buildings. Our staffs have had to take medical leave because of the mold. Our student’s asthma symptoms are triggered every day. We are killing mice instead of teaching our students to read. We are entering classrooms that are nearly 100 degrees in the summer. Maintenance staff are clear on the district level neglect of our public school buildings and do everything they can to keep our students and staff safe. The district has neglected our school buildings - for years. It was time to take action.
We moved this petition on the ground in more than 100 schools. Leaders had one on one conversations and meetings with fellow staff in their buildings. Stories about being sick for years - surfaced.
In December, we planned a mass meeting: Heal Our Schools. More than 100 people came out on Monday, December 10th. Toxic conditions in our schools are rampant - from staffing shortages, to needs for counselors, to the pervasive trauma and violence that students face daily - our conditions need to shift, immediately.
Racial and economic justice are at the heart of the ways that WE is transforming our public schools. Attacks on our schools are attacks on Black and Brown communities. Dispossession of our public education system is dispossession of Philadelphia’s neighborhoods. These include policies that dehumanize students, neglect of our public school buildings, practices that punish educators. All of work moves to shift these conditions. We are organizing, building rank and file power, and PFT members are not stopping.
WHAT’S NEXT? WHEN WE FIGHT, WE WIN: MAKING PHILLY #UTLASTRONG
Next week, we will come together - again - to continue the fight for the schools our students, families, and educators deserve. We can win the conditions that our students, educators, and families deserve through a powerful contract. When we have a contract that fights for fair learning conditions and working conditions for our school communities - we win.
We will be joined by Gillian Russom and Georgia Flowers Lee from the United Teachers of Los Angeles, and Maurice Weeks. They will tell the story of how rank and file educators transformed their union - and won a contract for LA public schools!