With nearly broke Philadelphia schools set to open on schedule next month, the city’s public school teachers are launching a new ad campaign taking aim at Mayor Nutter.
The new ad, which is airing on several television stations, including NBC10, as well as print and radio, accuses Nutter of being too friendly with Governor Tom Corbett instead of fighting for more funding.
“Mayor Nutter, you promised to do right by my kids,” says the woman in the commercial. “But you sided with Governor Corbett. You’ve let us all down.”
For several months, the Philadelphia school district worked to close a $304 million deficit caused in part by rising labor costs, debt service and charter school growth.
The crisis began weeks ago when pink slips went out to 3,800 workers, leaving schools staffed only by principals and teachers _ no secretaries, counselors or cafeteria aides.
Officials also cut athletics, music and extracurricular activities, even as they pleaded for help by asking for $60 million from the city, $120 million from the state and $133 million in union givebacks.
Last week, Superintendent William Hite threatened to delay the Sept. 9 start of classes if local or state leaders did not promise $50 million by August 16. Without those funds, he said, "we cannot open functional schools, run them responsibly or provide a quality education to students.''
The monetary commitment came August 15. It's still unclear what form the $50 million will take. Mayor Nutter says the city will borrow the funds, but council members say they won't approve such a transaction. They want the cash to come from the sale of school property.
The local teacher’s union says the state and national organizations are helping them foot the bill for the new ad attacking the Mayor. Leshawna Coleman, a Philadelphia teacher trainer and member of the union, agrees with the ad’s message.
“It feels like the Mayor is playing politics with the children of Philadelphia,” Coleman said.
Coleman believes Nutter should have fought harder in Harrisburg to prevent the massive teacher layoffs and cuts.
“Parents and teachers were in Harrisburg at the end of June,” Coleman said. “We didn’t see Mayor Nutter with us.”
Mark McDonald, Nutter’s spokesman, calls the ad a “distortion of reality” and says Nutter found a way to get schools open on time and that it’s time for the teachers to make a sacrifice in their contract negotiations.
“I think the ad is false,” McDonald said. “He has fought tooth and nail for school children and their parents in Philadelphia.”
NBC10 spoke with local parents and showed them the ad.
“I think everyone is trying to do their best but there’s a lot of politics involved and that makes it complicated,” said Shiva Chandra.
Virginia McAllister however believes it is “good” that the teachers are attacking the Mayor.
“They should be,” McAllister said. “As an incoming Philadelphian and soon to be tax payer, I’m right there with them.”
Wayne Nembhard meanwhile claimed he wasn’t sure what the ad would accomplish.
“I just think all parents should step up to the plate,” he said. “We can’t just leave everything on the Mayor.”
Published at 11:56 PM EDT on Aug 21, 2013
Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia