Cross-posted from The Philadelphia Public School Notebook
When new SRC Chairman Bill Green last month characterized teacher salaries and benefits as “excessive,” he may have won points in Harrisburg. But to those of us who work on behalf our city’s public school children and their families each day, he revealed little more than contempt and disrespect.
“When the [Philadelphia Federation of Teachers] makes that their goal rather than excessive benefits and salary and impossible work rules, those children will have a chance at success," Green said, referring to loosening teacher seniority rights to give principals more flexibility to choose their staff.
Green has shown that he plans to continue a pattern of ineffective, combative “leadership” that has characterized the unaccountable, unelected, and unsuccessful School Reform Commission throughout its existence. What’s more, Green also revealed a skewed interpretation of the word excessive. I’d like to offer some more applicable uses.
Excessive might describe the amount of money Green may have made as a commodities broker or in his private law practice. But one would think a background of social and political access, along with relative affluence—would shape in him the view that teacher compensation in Philly (which pales in comparison to neighboring districts) is anything but excessive. Unless, of course, Green believes brokers and lawyers contribute more to society than those working to help children and thus are more entitled to what they earn.
Excessive would describe the untold millions squandered by the SRC on testing materials, special projects and contracts, legal and consultant fees, “innovative” schools, and a plethora of top-paid central administrators. Meanwhile, our very own District fights against its own teachers instead of fighting for the full and fair funding of a school system that has been starved by cuts enacted by the Corbett administration.
Excessive would be the number of times the SRC found money for select schools, newly minted positions, and pet initiatives, but not for traditional public schools operating in relative squalor, here, in what’s arguably the world’s richest country.
Excessive, perhaps, would be the degree of irony evident when Green claims that the status quo hurts children, while simultaneously fighting for the right to be able to impose work rules, enabling the SRC to remove counselors, nurses, librarians, and other supports for those very same children who so desperately need them.
Finally, excessive might best describe the shame one should feel when you call urban education, as Green did, the civil rights issue of our time, and then align yourself with Gov. Corbett -- who held a cash-starved, urban district hostage for adequate changes in teacher work rules. A real civil rights leader would shake his head in disbelief.
Could you imagine a true civil rights leader supporting the SRC’s shameful anti-collective-bargaining practices?
Would a true civil rights leader embrace public policies that threaten to make the playing field more uneven than they already are for our most-at-risk children?
I would like to think that they would hold professionals who dedicate their lives to helping children—especially those working under the toughest conditions—in the highest regard. It doesn’t take an excess of common sense or intelligence to understand that.
Matthew Mandel is a National Board Certified Teacher with the School District of Philadelphia.