In what could be chapter out of a dystopian novel on the future of public education, the Philadelphia School District is currently in a deepening crisis. Thousands of Philadelphia School District students and parents have watched as 26 schools have been shuttered.
Teachers and staff have faced mass lay-offs. And deep cuts to art, music and educational aids have led to the dire predication that schools will become nothing more than, “warehouses for children.”
If the Philadelphia schools crisis is fit for a novel, then its heroes are the men and women fighting back against Governor Corbett’s assault on public education. John Kenney is one of thousands of 32BJ District 1201 members who are speaking out against Governor Corbett’s slash-and-burn policy towards public education.
John, a school engineer and advisory board member of 32BJ SEIU District 1201, joined thousands of parents, students and activists in Harrisburg for a huge education rally to restore funding to public education.
“I am speaking out because I see this crisis for what it is: a scheme by the Corbett administration to privatize education and get rid of unions,” said John.
For the last thirty years, John Kenney has helped thousands of children get to school as a bus driver for the Philadelphia School District. John and thousands of other District 1201 members faced lay-offs in 2012. Only after thousands of people protested in the streets and workers agreed to concessions, did they keep their jobs. With a current contract extending through 2015, the District 1201 members are mostly safe from this round of lay-offs. But John and his co-workers are still fighting tooth-and-nail to save Philadelphia schools.
“I see this latest round of layoffs as a ploy to get concessions from teachers. It’s a scare tactic. They’re just scape-goating the teachers just like they did with us,” said John.
No stranger to battles over budgets and contracts in his thirty years with the school district, John notes that the current crisis is the worst he’s ever seen.
John places the blame for the crisis largely on Governor Corbett’s education cuts and the School Reform Commission an entity largely controlled by the Governor. Counting down the minutes to the next gubernatorial election, John rarely missed a chance to share his views on the Governor’s education policy.
“Governor Corbett wants a corporate state and only cares about corporate interests. He should care more about schools and kids than he does about his corporate donors. We have to keep Governor Corbett from completely destroying public education.”