July 1, 2020
This evening, the US House passed the Rebuild America’s Schools Act as part of a broader infrastructure bill (HR 2).
PHILADELPHIA— On the US House passage of the Rebuild America’s Schools Act (RASA), PFT President Jerry Jordan issued the following statement:
“The PFT is incredibly encouraged by the US House’s action on HR 2, particularly by the incorporation of the Rebuild America’s Schools Act.
“In the weeks leading up to the nationwide COVID-19 shutdown, I was honored to share Philadelphia’s urgent facilities needs with Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Scott in support of this critical legislation. The passage of the broad infrastructure bill, with the inclusion of the Rebuild America’s Schools Act, is an absolutely crucial step forward that will be even more urgent in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. As we navigate the myriad issues associated with reopening schools, we have been clear that federal investment will be absolutely imperative.
“In my remarks in March, I noted that our facilities advocacy is very personal, and I shared some of the very painful stories that outline why we are fighting so hard for facilities funding:
- In 2016, SEIU member Chris Trakimas was fatally injured in a boiler explosion at Philadelphia’s FS Edmonds School.
- In May 2017, Philadelphia fourth-grader Chelsea Mungo wrote to her State Senator and told him that being in her dilapidated school building felt like being in prison or a junkyard.
- In September 2017, first-grader Dean Pagan, in his quest to keep his desk tidy at his Philadelphia school, ate the lead paint chips that sprinkled down, and was permanently affected by lead poisoning.
- Just this past August, one of our beloved PFT members, 28-year veteran teacher Lea DiRusso, was forced into early retirement after receiving a devastating mesothelioma diagnosis, quite likely brought on by having taught her entire career in classrooms with documented damaged asbestos.
“And let’s be clear: these are conditions that would never, ever be tolerated in wealthier, whiter school districts. Every day, the scourge of racism plays out in in the criminal underfunding of our schools, where Philadelphia’s schoolchildren, the majority of whom are Black and Brown, are mandated to learn in buildings each day that can quite literally poison them.
“The COVID-19 crisis has further exposed the profound inequity in our education system. It’s why the PFT has called for a holistic response that reflects who we want to be as a society.
“I applaud the House for their leadership on this issue, in particular Speaker Pelosi, Chairman Scott, and Congressman Brendan Boyle who has led local efforts as an integral part of our Fund Our Facilities Coalition. The investments outlined in RASA, as well as in the HEROES Act, will be bring unequivocally urgently needed resources into our local school districts to ensure the safety of our students and staff. I urge the Senate’s swift action on both bills.”