By Steve Tawa
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers is griping about what is says are the School District’s plans to privatize school employees – substitute teachers and nurses. The PFT says they are examples of why voters approved a non-binding referendum question in May to abolish the School Reform Commission, and return local control of Philadelphia’s schools.READ MORE: Toll Hike Takes Effect Sunday On 8 Delaware River Crossings, Gas Prices Also Going Up
The SRC will vote next week on a two-year, $34-million contract with the Cherry Hill-based Source 4 Teachers, a vendor that provides substitute teachers.
PFT president Jerry Jordan says the union is considering filing unfair labor practice claims and other legal options, if the SRC ratifies the proposal.
Jordan, Democratic candidate for Council At Large Helen Gym, a longtime school advocate and mother of three children in the District, and Councilman Bobby Henon, who also has kids in the District, also complained about the District’s plans to consider subcontracting healthcare services.
Jordan claims children would be hurt if they replaced experienced school nurses with nurses provided by an outside staffing agency.READ MORE: 10-Year-Old Boy Recovering After Grazed By Bullet In North Philadelphia: Police
“You cannot simply hire a private healthcare worker at the same level of expertise,” he says.
Jordan says school nurses in the district, or those currently laid off, are as familiar with the students as any other educators. Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools coordinator Ron Whitehorne, who retired after 23-years at one school, says they had only two nurses there in that entire time span.
Schools Superintendent Dr. William Hite notes that the District is only able to fill 64% of the substitute teacher vacancies.
“We have to solve that problem,” Hite says, “So, for children in our schools, it’s important for them to have an adult in front of their class.”
The District notes the Source 4 Teachers contract calls for a 90% fill rate.MORE NEWS: Tolls Increasing Sunday On 8 Delaware River Crossings Connecting Pennsylvania, New Jersey
As far as exploring outside healthcare services, Dr. Hite says a stipulation in the District’s request for proposals includes nurses, certified by the Pennsylvania Department of Health and Education.