Philly Teachers, Aides March on Harrisburg for School Funding, After Hunger Strike

            HARRISBURG, Pa.—Philadelphia school teachers, members of Teachers Local 3, and school aides and cafeteria workers, members of Unite Here Local 634, marched on the Pennsylvania state capitol in Harrisburg on June 25, demanding adequate funding to teach and feed kids in the city schools, and not firings.
            But whether their march, rally, lobbying or the week-long hunger strike that dozens of them undertook before the protest in Harrisburg had any effect on the GOP-dominated state legislature and Right Wing GOP Gov. Tom Corbett was dubious.
            Instead, the workers were confronted four days later by findings from an alleged “non-partisan” business-named task force, calling for more “efficiency” in the schools.
            And the state legislature had to decide whether to provide $120 million for the city schools and whether to let the city raise another $74 million for the schools through various small taxes.
            The conflict escalated in June when the legislature, at Corbett’s prodding, pushed through funding plans for the city schools that would lead to the firings of 1,200 of the aides and cafeteria workers and 2,409 of the teachers, plus closing 27 schools.
            Before that, the conflict had simmered as Corbett prodded the legislature to yank money from Philly public schools and give it to private schools, among other ideas. He also wants to cut teachers’ pensions.
            “The school district will say these layoffs are a tough but necessary part of finan-cial rightsizing,” Philadelphia Teachers President Jerry Jordan says in a message on the local’s website.  The rightsizing includes $133 million in giveback demands.
            “We say that these cuts are an unconscionable action that deprives children of sports, art, music, counselors, librarians, nurses and other vital programs and services. The impact of these layoffs will hurt our city’s poorest children, the ones who rely most on public education to provide a foothold to a better future.
            “These cuts are beyond unnecessary — they amount to an immoral act that no Philadelphia taxpayer should tolerate.   We demand our elected leaders do their jobs and properly fund public education.
            “It’s time to stop balancing the budget on the backs of school employees and students.  It’s time to move away from year after year of deficit emergencies and cutbacks.  It’s time to move toward a funding formula that adequately and consistently supports high quality public education for our children.”