By Jan Carabeo and Jim Melwert
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Upwards of 200 students stood outside the Philadelphia High School for Creative & Performing Arts in a spirited protest and symbolic ‘strike’ on Wednesday morning.
Cy, a junior at the high school, says the students are out because they want the School Reform Commission and the public to know how much teachers care about their students.
“We’re out here and we’re wearing red, chanting and cheering for our teachers,” he said. “People should drive by and say, ‘Wow, they really are doing something. They’re not just out to skip school.'”
Cy says not only are they protesting the voiding of the contract, but also how it was announced. He worries that the SRC’s decision will force good teachers to leave the district.
“They say it’s for us. They say, ‘oh we’re doing it for the students. We’re taking the teachers’ money and we’re giving it back to the schools so the students can get books and pencils and paper.’ And it’s like, we don’t want those things if we don’t have good teachers. You know, the good teachers, they can go to other schools and get their jobs and we don’t want that to happen,” he said.
The students outside CAPA, many wearing red and handing out fliers urging support of teachers, said they plan to stay outside and protest all day.
Many students had organized demonstrations on Facebook, asking Philadelphia School District students not to go to class today, and instead, stand outside in support of their teachers.
These demonstrations come just two days after the SRC suddenly and unilaterally canceled its labor contract with the teachers union. On Monday, the district announced it would force union members to contribute into their health care benefits.
The change starting in December will amount to $55 to $150 a month, based on the individual teacher’s salary.
The SRC says this will send $44 million back to the schools this year, and over the next four years it will amount to more than $200 million – a steady source of funding that officials say the school district desperately needs.
The SRC’s move is now being backed by Mayor Nutter.
“The action, unfortunately, was necessary, given the fact that the system is broken,” said Nutter. “There is no more money to be had from anywhere.”
“I am in disagreement with the mayor,” said Lauren Overton, a Meredith School teacher. “I think just like they expect us, as teachers, to constantly be recreating how we are going to work with less and still be expected to do the same, I’m going to expect more of my politicians.”
Teachers say they were blindsided by the move, even calling it disrespectful and cowardly.
The PFT plans on challenging this in court over the next 20-some days.