This is what the Philadelphia Student Union asked today as dozens of student organizers, teachers and allies gathered in front of J.R. Masterman High School. Prepared with binoculars, bold signs and mics in hand, PSU members asked where their needs are being taken into consideration during these heated teacher negotiations.
Top high school, Masterman H.S., was the backdrop for students from both "hard-to-staff" neighborhood and magnet schools, who made a statement about the unequal distribution of teachers across the city.
Under "No Child Left Behind", 70 of 265 Philadelphia public schools received Corrective Action II (CA II) status. Kimora Lamotte, a CAPA student, shared her experiences of having qualified teachers at her school while shining light on the rest of the city's reality. She stated the fact that only 57% of Philadelphia's CA II high school teachers are highly qualified.
PSU offers a smart solution: Teacher Incentive Grants. Greg Jordan-Detamore says "we are asking for the contracts to include teacher incentive grants...sums of money that are given to hard-to-staff schools, where the teachers decide how the money is spent." These grants would be incentives for attracting and retaining qualified and experienced teachers for neighborhood schools.
They challenge the city's school district and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers to make students and their needs a top priority for the duration of the teacher contract negotiations, set to be up at the end of the month. If these issues are not fully addressed by the deadline, PSU supports the one-year contract to continue negotiations to fix what Finesse Davis, a senior at Overbrook High School, calls a "broken system that punishes students."
Davis, who is also a member of the Overbrook PSU chapter, sums it all up when she says "I feel that if more people worked for the quality of education for students rather than the quantity of pay for teachers, school would be more engaging for students and more fulfilling for teachers."