Teachers working without contract seek donations for billboard on the issue

- Teachers working without a contract are seeking donations for a billboard on the issue.

"We need $5,000 in order to get a prime billboard right before the Center City exit," said a Philadelphia School  teacher who has his eyes set on a billboard along I-95 South just as you take the exit into Center City.
 
"It's going to be SRC member Bill Green on there, Superintendent Dr. Hite on there and Mayor Kenney is going to be in the middle," said Central High School Social Studies teacher George Bezanis says about the ad will look like.
 
"It's going to say Welcome to Philadelphia where we don't care about our public education. Philly teachers have been working 5+ years without a raise."
 
Ouch! George Bezanis is using the power of words and perhaps public shame to force city officials to get teachers a raise and a contract which they've been working without for almost five years.  He came up with the billboard idea after he says Mayor Kenney announced two weeks ago that he would not seek any budget increases.
 
"That's very troubling for me. The teachers pushed very hard to get Mayor Kenney elected," he said. He also claims not much help has come from the school district or SRC in resolving the matter either.
 
"Instead of settling with us they took the PFT to court in order to try to impose a contract upon us.  There's a huge responsibility there too."  Bezanis says it's taking a toll on educators.
He says some are leaving the district and others are taking on second jobs.
 
"I've seen 5 or 6 good teachers leave from my school alone, from Central High School over the past four years."  He adds, “The sacrifices are immeasurable. We’ve just given so much back and it seems like no one really cares about us."  Bezanis and other teachers have GoFundMe page seeking donations for the billboard. They hope it will help teachers get back what they put in.
 
"Teaching is a special place in my heart. I love doing it. It's a calling but it doesn't mean I have to be a martyr.  We need to get paid," he says.
 
Lauren Hitt, spokesperson for Mayor Jim Kenney’s Office, released the following statement: 
 
“Despite the fact that it is the state, not the city, who controls the School District, the City has increased its funding to the District by $400 million over the last five years, most recently with a tax increase in 2015 to raise $70 million in additional funding for the District. While the District has not requested an increase in funding from the City since Mayor Kenney took office, City Council approved and the Mayor signed the Philadelphia Beverage Tax, which will put nearly $70 million annually towards quality pre-K and community schools when these programs are at full implementation in 2020.

Mayor Kenney and his Deputy Mayor for Labor remain fully engaged in trying to facilitate negotiations between PFT and the District. Given the Trump administration's view of public education, and the reality that teachers have gone far too long without pay increases, we appreciate the importance of resolving this contract as quickly as possible. I also want to note that the mayor has never promised a no use and occupancy increase, as this individual is claiming, and he has explored PILOTs as an alternative funding source. However, in other cities, PILOTs have amounted to only a few million dollars at most, which would not make a significant difference in the teacher’s contract.."

 Lee Whack, spokesman for the School District of Philadelphia, released the following statement:

"We continue to talk with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers as we try to work out a fiscally responsible teachers contract that puts the students of Philadelphia first. Our desire is a contract which fairly compensates our teachers, but also retains the fiscal stability that the School District of Philadelphia has fought so hard for.  That contract, for which we have already put on the table nearly $150 million in combined operating and grant funds, must remain mindful of the funding parameters we have been given by both city and state funders, parameters which do not include the additional $400 million demanded by the leadership of the PFT."
 
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