Hundreds of runners circled the Philadelphia School District headquarters Saturday morning. But they weren’t participating in the latest marathon. Instead, they were sending a message.
The teachers and school advocates ran around the district headquarters on 440 North Broad Street to protest the state of education in Philadelphia.
“Tom Corbett and the State run school reform commission and are treating Philadelphia like a colony of Harrisburg and not the economic engine that pulls the entire state,” said Luigi Borda, the organizer of the run and a teacher at Masterman High School.
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Borda organized a similar event three years ago in which protesters ran from Philadelphia to Harrisburg. This time, Borda says he and his organizers will run on the first Saturday of each month until a new contract is negotiated for Philadelphia teachers.
“They are intentionally funneling Philadelphia tax dollars to private companies while starving our public schools,” Borda said. “We will keep coming back every first Saturday of the month until they do what is right.”
The Philadelphia School District is facing a suite of issues including frayed labor negotiations between the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and the city's School Reform Commission, and an ever-increasing deficit.
School District spokesman Fernando Gallard says the district is headed into the next fiscal year with a $29 million deficit, bringing the district's total shortfall for the next school year to more than $300 million.
"As we project our budget for next fiscal year, we're looking at a deficit of $320 million, if we are to run schools at a level that is gonna service our students and allow them to be successful in the classroom," Gallard said. "We have made it really clear that the way our schools are now, the way they are being funded is completely insufficient."
On Friday, thousands of education leaders and research scholars converged on the Pennsylvania Convention Center to discuss strategies for education reform as part of the American Educational Research Association’s (AERA) annual national conference.
The five-day conference will include a number of breakout sessions, during which attendees will explore ideas about how research data can inform education practices and policies.
On Friday, school district Superintendent William Hite participated in a roundtable discussion focused on the causes and impacts of the district’s funding crisis as well as possible solutions.