On Wednesday, May 15, the school district announced that more than 20 new buildings will be getting updated cooling systems. After over a year of organizing to improve building conditions in Philly schools, the Caucus of Working Educators is proud to celebrate this victory with all the staff, students, and community members who fought for air conditioning in every school building.
This year, rank-and-file members of the PFT organized to demand an end to toxic conditions in our schools. The petition below represents thousands of face-to-face conversations with rank-and-file PFT members. Over 2,500 members signed the petition demanding air conditioning in every learning space. Extreme heat in school buildings was a cause of several school closures last summer as well as a major asthma trigger. Asthma is one of the leading causes of absenteeism in Philly schools. The petition also demands lead remediation and robust pest control in every Philadelphia public school.
“As rank-and-file members of the PFT, we know what it feels like to try to teach all day in a classroom that’s unbearably hot and humid. It’s almost impossible,” said Katrina Clark, a teacher at the Workshop School and longtime member of the Caucus of Working Educators.
The Caucus of Working Educators held a “Heal Our Schools” community meeting last December, and collaborated with Teacher Action Group to produce a website showcasing the deplorable school conditions in zip codes across the city.
Members also delivered the petitions and testified publicly at City Council on April 15th, at the School Board meeting on April 29th, and again at City Council on May 6 (you can watch the videos from our City Council testimony below!).
Two members wrote a powerful Op-Ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer, calling on city leaders to address unsafe conditions, including the extreme heat that plagues our school buildings in the early fall and late spring.
By sharing stories from our classrooms, speaking out for our students, and organizing with our fellow members, we changed the conversation about how the School District should spend its money. Every member who signed our petition helped to make this possible. We look forward to winning many more victories for Philly staff and students in the future!
When we organize for the schools we deserve, we win.
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Petition Delivery and Testimony at City Council Budget Hearing on 4/16/19:
Councilperson Helen Gym's "State of Our Schools" Hearing on 5/6/19: