Hundreds of Philadelphia teachers stage 'Day of Action' protest

Monday, May 1, 2017
Hundreds of Philadelphia teachers stage 'Day of Action' protest
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Hundreds of Philadelphia teachers stage 'Day of Action' protest. Walter Perez reports during Action News at 4pm on May 1, 2017.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Philadelphia public school teachers are staging a "Day of Action" Monday across the city over their lack of a contract and pay raise.

On a normal day about 200 teachers call out from work across the district.

On Monday, the Philadelphia School District tells Action News, an estimated 1,000 teachers called out from work, though it was not immediately clear how many of those teachers joined the protests.

It's not sanctioned by their union. Participants are taking personal days.

The teachers say because their pay has been frozen for five years and they've been without a contract for four, it is time for them to take action.

Demonstrating teachers started gathering at 7:30 a.m. at schools across the district.

By mid-morning, many of them, along with parents and other supporters, were out in front of school district headquarters in Spring Garden and were calling for action.

They then marched to Dilworth Plaza outside Philadelphia City Hall, where they joined hundreds more.

"The state blames the city, the city blames the state," said Central High teacher Galeet Cohen. "The federal government is not involved. All we know is that we are here for our students in our classrooms, doing the best we can. But we can't cover this with our own wallets and time indefinitely."

Organizers aren't calling this a strike, but rather a grassroots action.

Schools are open as usual, with the school district in touch with substitute providers to help fill the gaps. Some parents and students voiced their support.

"We have some really dedicated, really amazing teachers that aren't getting paid what they're supposed to be," said Central High senior Sophia Rabate. "The lack of a contract really upsets me."

"They deserve to be paid better," said Harrison Jude, also a Central High senior. "I believe education is the most important thing in society right now. To not pay the people educating is ridiculous."

"When you have good employees, and they are not appreciated, people tend to leave," said parent Ana Lolon.

School district officials tell Action News the district has a 90-percent teacher retention rate year over year.

Spokesman Lee Whack says the superintendent is focused on getting teachers a fair contract.

"We have to keep all our fiscal realities in mind when we go forward to negotiate any contract," said Whack. "So that's part of the consideration on our end."

Erica Catlin from Central High School has been a teacher for 12 years, and she told Action News she has seen it all.

"We've gone through layoffs, 40 kids in classrooms," she told Action News on Sunday night. "But we still don't have a teacher contract, and that is disruptive to our workplace."

Married with one daughter and another on the way, Catlin says having no contract and no pay raise means she can't plan for the future.

"You can't plan your life if you don't know what your income is going to be. You can't plan in your classroom if you don't know who is going to be there next year and what kind of funding you're going to have," she added.

Despite the protest, all schools in the Philadelphia School District remained open Monday for classes.


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