Hundreds of teachers are set to gather outside the Philadelphia School District headquarters Thursday to protest the School Reform Commission’s decision to cancel the labor contract with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers(PFT). Yet another group with a different message and a different motivation will also be in attendance, according to a local blog.
Philly Declaration reported that the Commonwealth Foundation, a conservative think tank, hired a New York marketing firm to pay a dozen people to hand out flyers and hold banners in opposition to the teachers’ union during Thursday’s protest.
NBC10.com reached out to the Commonwealth Foundation for comment.
“Commonwealth Foundation hired 12 people to hold banners and pass out handouts at tomorrow’s PFT rally,” said Cindy Hamill-Dahlgren, the director of Strategic Communications for the Commonwealth Foundation. “We will be there, not to counter-protest but to inform the public of how the PFT has failed teachers and students.”
George Jackson, the communications director for the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, called the spokeswoman’s comments a “false notion.”
“If you have an ax to grind then you should be able to find people who will come out and hand flyers out for free,” Jackson said. “But apparently they can’t do that. To be quite honest with you, they are pro-corporate interest with a pro-corporate agenda. That’s what they’re doing here.”
Despite the expected presence of the counter-protesters, Jackson said nothing would distract the union from letting their voices be heard during their rally.
“What the SRC did last week in their ambush against the PFT was to try and insinuate that PFT’s teachers weren’t giving enough out of their own pockets to keep our schools running,” Jackson said. “Just the opposite is true.”
The rally is set to begin Thursday at 4 p.m. outside the District headquarters on North Broad Street.
Meanwhile, the Philadelphia School District is set to release $15 million to schools this week as part of a reallocation of $43.8 million, according to Superintendent Dr. William Hite. Hite announced Wednesday the money was generated by savings from the new PFT healthcare benefits package.
According to Hite, another $15 million will go to schools in early 2015 while the remaining $13.8 million will go to schools in April.
“The money will be used to support student learning and other support services. Some schools are using these funds already to provide extracurricular activities and remediation in reading and math, to compensate teachers for taking on these duties and to hire additional support staff,” Hite said. “We are gratified to be able to provide these funds while also recognizing they are not nearly enough to meet all of our schools’ needs. The School District will continue to look for additional revenues and urge our elected officials to approve a statewide fair funding formula.”
NBC10's Nefertiti Jaquez contributed to this report.