Students, parents and school staff rally for funding at J.S. Jenks

On the steep steps of John Story Jenks Elementary, they decried the Philadelphia School District’s ongoing fiscal crisis.

More than 20 teachers, parents and students gathered Tuesday at the Chestnut Hill school for one in a series of protests the Philadelphia Teachers Federation (PFT) has organized with the hopes of highlighting the impact the district’s multi-million dollar deficit will have on students this coming school year.

“We need every voice to speak up and say that it is not fair to destroy public education for our children,” said Evette Jones, a community engagement coordinator with PFT, which represents more than 15,000 district employees.

With less than three weeks to go before the start of the school year, the district is still staring down a $250 million resource deficit.

Nearly 3,800 school employees were laid off in June, including several employees at Jenks.

The K-8 school lost a full-time teacher, a part-time teacher, a counselor, four noontime aids and two Support Service Assistants, who, among other duties, watch over students in lunchrooms and during recess.

“Our children did not create this financial crisis and they should not suffer from it,” said Nancy Hoover, who lost her job as a counselor at George Pepper Middle School, which closed this summer as part of the district’s facilities master plan.

The district has asked for $133 million worth of labor concessions to help address its shortfall. The PFT is opposed to some of the changes the administration seeks, including salary cuts.

Theresa Alden, a teacher at Emlen Elementary in Mt. Airy, said it’s unfair that district wants to reduce teacher pay.

“I’m already paying school taxes. I’m already paying city wage taxes,” said Alden, whose children attend public schools.

The PFT previously held rallies at Julia De Burgos Elementary in North Philadelphia, South Philadelphia High School and Warren G. Harding Middle School in Frankford.

A fifth and final rally is scheduled for next Tuesday at Henry C. Lea Elementary in West Philadelphia.

Students return to class on Sept. 9.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal