Philadelphia teachers on Thursday protested the latest in a long list of assaults on their jobs. Public school officials are demanding more than $130 million on concessions in terms of salary and benefit cuts because of an ongoing school funding crisis.
The current proposal has teachers taking salary cuts from 5 to 13% and paying more for health care, Reuters reports. In recent years, 30 schools have been closed and nearly 4,000 teachers and other staffers have been laid off. Many teachers are short on supplies for their students and have to pay out of their own pockets or dig through dumpsters to get what they need. Teachers are having to go without aides, even in kindergarten classes. Urban school systems across the United States have been hammered by reductions in state aid since the 2007–2009 recession. In many states, the level of aid still hasn't returned to pre-recession levels.
The rapid growth of charter schools is a key part of the problem. As more charter schools have opened, students have flocked to them, taking state funds from the public school system. During the upcoming school year, more than one-third of Philadelphia students will be enrolled in charter schools, more than double the rate from 2008.
The teachers' labor contract expires Aug. 31 and school starts a week after that. Philadelphia Federation of Teachers Spokesperson George Jackson says the union and the school district are still far apart.