Coalition: Facilities Crisis Needs Urgent Attention

This statement was released by the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers Local 3 on January 8, 2020.  The Pennsylvania AFL-CIO is proud to support them as partners in the Fund Our Facilities Coalition.

A coalition gathered at a shuttered Philadelphia school to urge the Governor to prioritize facilities funding in this year’s budget address.

PHILADELPHIA–This morning, a coalition of educators, parents, elected officials and community partners joined PFT President Jerry Jordan outside of Carnell Elementary to once again call attention to the urgent facilities crisis unfolding in Philadelphia’s schools. Carnell is one of six schools that have been forced to close this school year due to imminent asbestos hazards.

“This morning’s gathering was another important step in ensuring that facilities funding is prioritized in this year’s state budget, and we will continue to work tirelessly to ensure that this crisis is at the forefront of everyone’s conscience,” said PFT President Jerry T. Jordan. “I am proud that so many PFT members, parents, and our elected allies are continuing to partner with us in this critical advocacy work. Our message is clear: the Governor’s budget address must include significant funding to address this ongoing crisis.”

“We need immediate investments in our school facilities to protect the health and safety of our community,” said Congressman Brendan F. Boyle (PA-02), whose district includes Carnell and a number of recently impacted schools. “Our students and teachers should never be subjected to these dangerous conditions – schools should be safe havens, not hazard zones. I am proud to stand with PFT and my partners on the local and state level who have also made this a priority, and join the call for those in Harrisburg to wake up and help us through this emergency. As I continue to push for supplemental federal funding, we need all hands on deck.” Congressman Boyle later addressed the toxic conditions in Philadelphia schools on the floor of US Congress.

Carnell teacher Tina Asman expressed her outrage at her school’s closure, stating, “Never in my 23 years of teaching did I think that asbestos hazards would make it impossible for me to do the job I love. I want my students back in school, and we need the environmental hazards at Carnell and across the District fixed once and for all.”

Carnell parent Rishawn Reynolds added, “My daughter needs to be in school, and she needs to be in a school where she is safe. It is disgraceful that we do not yet have the funds needed to keep my daughter, her classmates, and kids everywhere healthy at school.”

State and City elected officials representing Carnell Elementary agreed:

Senator Tina Tartaglione, chair of the Philadelphia Senate Delegation, said, “This is not a Philadelphia issue, a Democrat issue, or a Republican issue. It’s a Pennsylvania issue and it’s a moral issue. Our kids and our teachers deserve to be in an environment where they’re safe.”

State Representative Jared Solomon urged swift action: “The Governor has already done so much for the education of our young people, and I urge him and our colleagues in the Legislature to address this health crisis head on in this budget year – our kids, our parents, our teachers, cannot afford to wait any longer.”

“I remain committed to working with local and state legislators to ensure that this public health crisis in our schools is addressed so that our kids and staff can learn and work in buildings free of toxic conditions,” added founding Fund Our Facilities Coalition member Council Majority Leader Cherelle Parker. “Our children and school employees deserve healthy environments.”

Elected officials representing recently impacted schools also joined us, once again reiterating their commitment to the Fund Our Facilities Coalition and its goals:

Councilmember Mark Squilla, referencing a joint letter to Dr. Hite issued by Congressman Boyle and several elected officials, noted, “It is imperative that all schools are safe and for the District to keep an open line of communications with each individual school on the needed repairs and possible timeline for cleaning and remediation.”

State Representative Brian Sims stated, “I remain committed to working with local and state legislators to ensure that this public health crisis in our schools is addressed so that our kids and staff can learn and work in buildings free of toxic conditions. Our children and school employees deserve healthy environments.”

State Senator Larry Farnese summarized this commitment: “As a delegation, we are united and committed to making equality for our children the central issue of 2020.”