PFT Local 3 Fights for Safe Schools

The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers Local 3 has been fighting for safe schools in the city of brotherly love. Asbestos and mold have been found in schools across the district, which educates 10% of Pennsylvania’s school students. PFT has taken a stand in response to dangerous levels of asbestos found in Benjamin Franklin/SLA (Science Leadership Academy).

In September, the PFT released an action plan to fight asbestos in Philadelphia schools. PFT’s Healthy Schools Action Plan lays out a series of “action items” for five key areas:

  1. Assessment and Evaluation;
  2. High-risk location identification;
  3. Urgent short-term response;
  4. Operations and maintenance; and
  5. Long-term abatement

“The students and school staff at Ben Franklin/SLA have had their school year unacceptably disrupted by ongoing construction issues and dangerously high levels of asbestos in the boiler room and the SLA Commons. But until these areas are properly cleaned and tested by the District and the PFT, it is imperative that students and school staff NOT be allowed to enter the building,” said President Jordan in a statement released on October 4.

“The PFT will be closely monitoring the abatement work and the testing of the building over the weekend. We object to opening either school unless we can assure that it is safe for all who enter the building.”

Days later, on October 8, the union released the following statement:

“At today’s town halls at 440, the students, parents and school staff from Ben Franklin and SLA let the District know–loudly and clearly–that they feel disrespected and neglected. And they are absolutely right. From the management of the construction, to their handling of asbestos hazards, to their communication with school communities, the District has failed to properly address the myriad concerns raised by this utterly shambolic renovation project.

“The PFT has been at the forefront of calling out and offering solutions for the unacceptable conditions in our school buildings. So much of the righteous anger and frustration on display at this morning’s town hall could have been avoided if the District had worked more closely with the PFT on potential solutions. It is also not unreasonable to expect the District to have had an emergency relocation plan in place prior to this school year; or, at the very least, to have engaged in proactive communications with school communities the moment they realized construction wouldn’t be nearly finished by September 1.

“I sincerely hope these town halls serve as a wake-up call for the District. We work for the parents and schoolchildren of Philadelphia–it is wrong to obfuscate or hide information from them.

“More importantly, our children are not just ‘units’ that can be shuffled from building to building–they are real people with needs, and a right to trust that their taxpayer-funded school district will help meet those needs. The District has violated that trust.”