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Demoralized Teachers: Negotiation Context and Calculations

 

Recent suggestions that professional teachers in Philadelphia are overpaid and are expecting too many resources  are shockingly misinformed, and counterproductive accusations.

Context

The context for Public Education is ‘crisis mode’ in many urban centers.  Public Schools are targeted for privatization by a coalition of ‘free-market’ politicians and private, billionaire profiteers. Key  weapons in the battle are “Doomsday” budgets for Public Schools, combined with funding new charter schools from the same decimated public school budget;  generating a ‘normalized’, continuous resource drain.  The ethics are horrifying.  Then fire-away at teachers with declining ‘scores’ from discredited, feckless  “standardized tests.”  Use the meaningless results to deceptively scream “failing” schools, “failing” teachers. Slash teacher headcount on the front line, cut resources further, increase class sizes, and leave the fewer remaining teachers and students as collateral damage.

The teachers who are still standing,  remain in the battle for our children’s education, but they’re standing with sagging morale.  Further, those remaining teachers are also enduring direct attacks of all sorts, including public, baseless, boorish  disparagement (video) from SRC commissioner Green, and threats from their own School District of Philadelphia, from state lawmakers, and even from a president-to-be.

Publicly denigrating professionals who are battling on the frontline is a vacant strategy.  It will improve what, exactly…?

Recent data shared by the District itself reveals that 76 percent [of teachers] said they felt ‘not at all respected'” by the Philadelphia School Reform Commission.

Your professional troops in any battle will not become more effective without appropriate supplies, without relief, without backup and without the trustworthy word of leaders.

The possibility of competing to retain teachers or to recruit committed professional replacements in this environment is laughable.  The possibility of luring young families to fuel Philadelphia’s future growth, while normalizing a broken paradigm in public education is a sad mirage.

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Calculations

Some “leaders”(better described as “managers”) like to defensively, and erroneously parrot that they can’t maintain the troops, let alone honor their broken contract because “there is no money,” and  “If we had more money, we’d be offering more money,”   —  blatantly, patently false claims.  A transparent attempt by pass-the-buck-managers to wash their hands of accountability for the situation.

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There IS money. There is money at the district level, and at the city level, and at the state level. There has been money all along.

The school district budget alone is almost $ 3 Billion every year. The district makes thousands of ‘priority’ decisions with their $3 Billion, as do the city and the state with their budgets.

Teaching funds are not a priority” would be the accurate way to describe the situation, Not that “there is no money”.

The district continues ignoring (best case) or publicly castigating its own teachers and now sensationalizes the “one hundred million” dollars which they describe as a ‘package’ for their teachers, who are the main engine of learning for children of Philadelphia. Sounds great till you recall that the starting point for teacher salaries, almost 5 years ago, was already 20% behind the nearby suburbs’ salary scales back then.  Still an incomplete picture until you compare the daily expectations in a much more difficult, more whole-life job, with far fewer and far lower quality resources. The metaphor would be one of Philadelphia teacher cavalry, working in swamps with injured, hungry, drowning children, versus, suburban teachers, using state-of-the-art, computer-controlled drone fighter jets working over a resort with healthy cadets.

Further, recall that the latest package comes after zero ‘packages’ since 2012, almost 5 years.  In actuality, the ‘package’ for those years was a Negative package — the district took money away from teachers – yes, the existing, agreed-to, contractual package was taken way from teachers, in an illegal process , with no teacher voice, and it was never returned. Based on published comments from an SRC commissioner, the costs of the ‘takeaways’ for those years has been roughly  $300,000,000, at least. How do you assess “trustworthy” in context of a broken contract and the SRC’s mid-stream takeaway of $300,000,000+ ?

Now this single “new” package is planned to be spread out over the future.  Specifically, spread into 4 future years, until 2021. We should all then be looking at the impact of the package over the total nine-year window from 2012 to 2021. Then the “one hundred million” is more clearly understood as $11 million for each of those 9 years, and even that number is before deducting the massive takeaways.

For perspective, the District spent $50 million +/- on the new curricula this year, which are proving to be worth much less.  The $11 million professional teacher package is worth even less than the books?

For another perspective,  if the numbers are compared fairly, on the same decimal scale, the proposed ‘package’ over the nine-year window is about $0.011 of the annual $3.0 Billion. About 3.6 TENTHS of one % of the annual budget.

We (and the public) are to believe Dr. Hite when he says the only money they can spare from $3.0 Billion is $0.011?

Wow.

If that is true, we need a better budget manager.

So, again:  “Teaching funds are not a priority” would be the correct way to describe the situation, Not that “there is no money”.

 

Meanwhile, the District’s decision to negotiate publicly is adversarial to teachers whom Dr. Hite and the SRC should be working with, not against. Obviously, their relationship with their own teacher troops is at a new low. Their untrustworthy history, and their authoritarian, paternalistic, deceptive approach today is disappointing and demotivating. It has got to go.

 

CLICK HERE for the edited NewsWorks/WHYY version.

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2 thoughts on “Demoralized Teachers: Negotiation Context and Calculations”

  1. You remind me that on the very same day that our Big Name city newspaper published a headline that our state is now facing a dangerous loss of teachers, there was an additional endorsement of DeVOs for Secretary of Education. No one thought it necessary to warn the public that there is a devastating connection between the two.

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