Rallying for more funding for the city’s schools, at least a thousand protesters took to the streets of Philadelphia Thursday afternoon.
Mostly teachers, the crowd surged toward the Philadelphia School District headquarters where the School Reform Commission was to meet for the last time before the school year begins Sept. 9.
The teachers, whose contract expires Aug. 31, chanted and called for more school funding.
“I’m worried about my life, my contract my job and my students,” said preschool teacher Amy Kauffman.
Many of the teachers say they can’t afford the concessions that the financially struggling school district is seeking in order to qualify for more funding from Harrisburg.
Sharon Ferrigon, one of the teachers who got a pink slip at the end of the academic year in June, said she feels “horrible” not knowing whether she will have a job when the school year begins.
“Would you like to wake up every day, not knowing what you are going to do?” she said.
Philadelphia Federation of Teachers union head Jerry Jordan says his membership is inching along, trying to make a deal with the district.
“Sometimes you can leap across a canyon in the negotiations process,” he said. “It’s a matter of just staying at the table and continuing to work on it.”
Facing a $304 million budget gap, the Philadelphia School District this year asked for an additional $60 million from the city, $120 million from the state, and $133 million in labor concessions.
The city government has pledged $78 million. The state provided an extra $2 million, and the Corbett administration said it will kick in another $45 million if the teachers union agrees to a new contract that includes financial givebacks and work-rule changes.
The union has a meeting scheduled for Sept. 2 where there could be a vote for a new contract — or a strike vote.