1,000 Philly teachers call out to protest lack of contract

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Hundreds of frustrated Philadelphia teachers shut down part of North Broad Street Monday, protesting their continued lack of a contract.

About 1,000 Philadelphia School District teachers did not report for work, many of them taking personal time to highlight what they say are unfair working conditions.

The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, which did not sponsor or sanction the action, is planning a rally later Monday. The union has not had a contract for nearly four years; teachers have gone without a raise for nearly five.

The coordinated teacher absence was organized by the Caucus of Working Educators, an activist coalition within the union.

Alicia Benjamin, a kindergarten teacher at Mifflin Elementary, is frozen at a beginning teachers’ salary despite having several years of experience.

“I’ve started graduate school, and it’s become increasingly difficult to pay for classes,” Benjamin said.

She is not a member of the Working Educators group, but felt compelled to participate anyway. She hoisted a sign and marched down Broad Street to City Hall after a rally outside school district headquarters.

“I’m here for my students, too,” Benjamin said. “Our teaching conditions are their learning conditions.”

Bill Steinke, a 23-year veteran, teaches of Feltonville School of Arts and Sciences. He called out to make a point, he said.

His daughter followed him into a career teaching in Philadelphia, and she wonders whether she can stay in the district, he said.

“Without a contract, there’s no hope for a decent standard of living,” said Steinke.

A full day of action is planned, culminating in a union rally in West Philadelphia where teachers leaving the system because of a lack of contract will speak.

The majority of teachers at a number of schools called out on Monday, school district officials said. Still, they said, students’ education will not be disrupted.

The PFT and school district have planned contract negotiating sessions all week. 

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