Unfortunately, the city of Philadelphia, the commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the School Reform Commission continue to denigrate us every chance that they get. When we ask for librarians to nurture a childhood spark of inquisitiveness, we get layoff notices. When we ask for counselors to help guide society’s most vulnerable members through the treacherous waters of American inequity, we are given platitudes about how the money was given away in tax breaks in order to spur economic growth. When we dare point a finger at a government that refuses to invest in our children, we’re told it’s our fault for seeking a decent living wage.
And what of our “ludicrous” wages? Wages so high, they claim, that the SRC is seeking to forgo any cost-of-living adjustments and, in fact, demanding that we give back up to 13 percent of our pay? If salary is a measure of one’s worth, then society must despise the educators of our city’s youth.
Earlier this month, SEPTA offered city bus drivers, members of Transport Workers Union Local 234, a 2 percent raise in the first year and a 3 percent raise in the second year of a proposed contract. If accepted, the average bus driver in Philadelphia would earn over $68,000. Meanwhile, the average public school teacher in the city currently earns $70,790. If the SRC has its way, that figure would drop to $61,587.
SEPTA, like the School District, gets a large proportion of its funding from Harrisburg. SEPTA, like the School District, continuously runs deficits because the job of transporting commuters in one of America's largest metro areas is a herculean task — as is the job of educating its children.
Clearly there are priorities and these priorities do not rest with our children. Perhaps it’s time for us to exchange our numerous academic diplomas for a driver’s license and a place behind the steering wheel. Maybe then, we’ll finally get some appreciation.