by Ray Guzman and Christopher Paslay
According to the Philadelphia School District’s Teacher Vacancy List, the district is seeking 1,540 teachers for the 2013-14 school year.
The Philadelphia School District, according to its website, has 1,540 teacher vacancies for the 2013-14 school year. Of the 376 schools that currently need teachers, 47 are high schools (485 vacancies); 6 are alternative schools (28 vacancies); 15 are middle schools (89 vacancies); and 308 are elementary schools (938 vacancies).
The revelation that the School District is seeking over 1,500 teachers for next fall is shocking but nonetheless true, at least according their website. Benjamin Franklin High School, for example, is seeking no less than 33 teachers for next school year: 6 social studies, 4 English, 4 ESOL, 4 math, 3 biology, 2 chemistry, 2 art, 1 Spanish, 1 music, 1 learning support math, 1 bilingual math, 1 learning support English, 1 life skills support, 1 culinary arts, and 1 business information computer technology.
South Philadelphia High School needs 34 teachers. Edison High School needs 78. Strawberry Mansion needs 36. Northeast and Washington high schools need 22 and 14 teachers, respectively.
And on and on it goes.
Although the School District has not released any official numbers, these vacancies are most likely the result of teachers either retiring or quitting over budget concerns and the bleak outlook for the 2013-14 school year (well done, Boston Consulting Group). How has the School District responded to what appears to be a massive teacher shortage for the 2013-14 school year?
By laying-off 676 teachers.
It’s true. Last week, 676 teachers received pinks slips terminating them as employees of the Philadelphia School District as of July 1st. This means they will no longer receive health insurance and must file for unemployment.
The Philadelphia School District’s plans for the coming school year—from school closings to the recent layoffs of 3,700 staff—are fishy, to say the least. Much of it fails to pass the smell test. The savings achieved on the shuttering of 23 schools and the merge or relocation of five others has been hotly debated. So has the preposterous idea that schools will be able to run without counselors, nurses, vice principals, secretaries, hall monitors, or learning support staff.
It’s become quite clear that the Philadelphia School District and School Reform Commission are posturing—playing “doomsday” games in front of city and state politicians to squeeze more money from taxpayers and most importantly, to box the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers into a corner in an attempt to get over $100 million in labor concessions from them; the School District hopes to manipulate the PFT the way they did SEIU 32BJ Local 1201.
These “doomsday” games are flat out dangerous. Although the School District does have legitimate financial problems and money is genuinely scarce (due in large part to the fraud, waste, and abuse of the Ackerman administration), the laying off of nearly 20 percent of its staff, especially 676 teachers, may come back to bite them.
It’s apparent by the employment opportunities on their own website that come September 1st, the School District will need to fill 1,500 teacher vacancies simply to make the schools run. And when you do the math—when you bring back the 676 teachers who were laid off and subtract them from the 1,500 plus teachers needed—this comes to a massive shortage of over 800 teachers. This, of course, doesn’t factor in the vacancies created by teachers who quit or retire at the end of the summer.
Why did the School District cut 676 teachers to begin with? Political posturing, as I’ve mentioned above. The SRC wants to put the squeeze on the PFT, Mayor Nutter, and Governor Corbett. They are also doing it to save money—two month’s worth of health insurance premiums, to be exact.
Seniority is also an issue. Creating all these vacancies gives principals more power to hire their own staff.
A closer look at the teacher vacancy list reveals something else: the School District is full of bologna when it claims it will end all of its art and music programs. If they were truly cutting all art and music (and not just putting on a grand show for all the city and state to see), why in the world would there exist vacancies on the School District website calling for various art and music teachers?
Currently, there are 78 music teacher positions, and over 100 art-related positions, posted on the website.
Come September, after the Philadelphia School District is done trying to consume itself to save a little money, and after they have finished successfully tap-dancing for tens of millions of dollars in cash from city and state legislators (and, surprise, surprise, find extra money in their coffers), much of its programs will be restored; the School District can only violate state laws for so long.
The kicker, of course, will be finding a way to deal with the massive teacher shortage they have created.