On Thursday, October 16th, ten members of the Caucus testified before the SRC. This week we will be posting some of their testimonies in written form.
My name is Jesse Gottschalk, and I am a 3rd grade teacher at Henry Lea Elementary, a PFT member, and a member of the Caucus of Working Educators.
And when I tell people that I’m a teacher in a Philadelphia public school, people respond with wide eyes. They treat it like such an immense challenge and sacrifice, that I start to wonder. What does it mean that one of the most important careers in the world is now considered so impossible in this city that people think you have to be some kind of martyr to do this?
And the sad part is, I can’t say they’re wrong. In order to do my job, I’ve already spent $1,000 out of pocket on this school year, and I consider it an easy day if I work for less than 10 hours. I’ve not had a lot of easy days. And meeting teachers across the District, I see that that is not an exception, that this kind of work is the norm, because with as little support as we get, it becomes impossible to do our jobs without that level of commitment. And I’m a new teacher, so I haven’t had to deal with frozen wages or unsupported graduate expenses like my colleagues.
We all say that our schools are in crisis. We are in crisis. And to the SRC, I say that I know that you did not create this crisis. We all know that. But as teachers, we say that you should be standing beside us. And to take the unprecedented step of backing out of negotiations…cancelling our contract…in a secret meeting? And then to stand by while your allies go on the airwaves – and you yourselves join them! – to call us the enemy? Saying we are not sharing in the sacrifice? It’s shameful. It’s tragic.
Furthermore – setting aside the fact that our Union has already said it is willing to negotiate on benefits, may I just say: Dr. Hite called this "sharing in the sacrifice as we’re trying to navigate tough fiscal times," but let me be clear. This is not just about “tough fiscal times.” Teachers unions are perhaps the most publicly vilified professional group in the country -- any sacrifices made in "tough fiscal times" will NOT be restored when times get better. And we all know this to be true.
One of the most profound honors of being a teacher is getting to work alongside colleagues who are some of the most selfless, dedicated, intelligent people I have ever met. Teachers sacrifice every day to keep our contracts with our students. But our contract with you can be erased – just like that? What message does that send to our students? What message does that send about our city? I’m ashamed of this body’s actions. How can YOU not be?