September 6, 2023
Amidst an ongoing heatwave that has prompted early dismissals of over 1/3 of District schools, PFT President Jerry T. Jordan issued the following statement:
PHILADELPHIA--"The ongoing and worsening impacts of the worldwide climate emergency, coupled with decades of disinvestment in our system of public education, have put an enormous strain on students and staff as they returned to school. This week's unbearable heat wave has prompted the closures of over 1/3 of District buildings, closures that will continue (with additional schools added) through the rest of the week.
"While members and students alike enthusiastically greeted each other on Tuesday, in too many locations, the excitement and anticipation of the year ahead was tempered by the oppressive heat that has had a real negative impact on student and staff well-being.
"Throughout the week, my team has been visiting schools as well as working internally to address literal hotspots. While we recognize that the District's early dismissal was warranted in those schools it named, there are a number of additional locations that continue to suffer from malfunctioning or minimally functioning air conditioning. Even in newer buildings, these challenges are very real. Additionally, while dismissal before the afternoon heat is prudent, the mornings in schools without air conditioning have been intolerable. For just one example, the heat at one school our team visited was unbearable on the second floor even before the early dismissal. We have received dozens upon dozens of calls from frustrated members over the past few days, and the conditions they report are simply unacceptable.
"Ultimately, the environments in which we expect students to learn, and educators and school staff to work, are deeply reflective of our societal priorities. When, for decades, we refuse to invest in a robust and well-funded system of public education -- specifically Philadelphia's, where the majority of our students are Black and Brown and experiencing poverty-- we end up with devastating consequences. Nowhere has that been more clearly illustrated than in the ongoing facilities crisis that has left students and educators quite literally poisoned by their school buildings. And now, the lack of facilities modernization and electrical upgrades in too many locations has left many buildings unable to even support portable or window AC units.
"Further, the fact that we continue to shirk our obligation to truly address the climate crisis--and in fact, we have extremists who continue to peddle lies and conspiracies about even the existence of a very real emergency--is deeply disturbing and will have irreversible consequences.
"It is past time for Pennsylvania's legislative and executive branches to once and for all rectify the immoral, inequitable, and unconstitutional funding system that has wreaked havoc on too many lives. Both the legislative and executive branches have been charged with addressing the decades of neglect. And it is past time for the Republican extremists in Washington to stop playing deadly and devastating games, and get to work in making bold, sustainable, and ongoing investments in public school infrastructure and other critical initiatives.
"I have been heartened by the incredible work of our members and our students to make this first week special, but their resilience and fortitude in the face of a crisis such as this should not be necessary. Every child and school staff member needs and deserves to learn and work in a safe and healthy school environment."