This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Philadelphia students refused to attend classes at two District high schools Wednesday morning to express solidarity with their teachers, who students think have been mistreated by the School Reform Commission.
On Monday, the SRC unilaterally terminated the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers contract. With the agreement out of the way, the School District says teachers will now begin paying for a share of their health care premiums, a move they say will give classrooms an additional $44 million worth of resources this year.
The SRC has asked state Commonwealth Court to make a declaratory judgment on the legality of its action. PFT leadership says lawyers are working on a response, but have yet to provide specifics.
Under the 2001 state takeover law, if teachers strike, they can have their certifications revoked. On Wednesday, sympathetic students flexed their collective muscles in the union’s stead.
At Creative and Performing Arts High School (CAPA), about 200 students led a peaceful protest on South Broad Street that exuded the school’s artistic energy.
Junior Cy Wolfe, who strutted along the sidewalk, leading chants with a bullhorn, helped organize the protest through social media.
"There are a lot of people who would not want to work this job," Wolfe said of District teachers. "So these people, they say, ‘OK, I’ll work this job that is much harder than another job.’ So with that, you get the added bonus of health care being paid for."
Wolfe and a few of his friends across the District had called for a citywide protest, but the bulk of activity occurred at CAPA and Science Leadership Academy, two of the District’s top magnet high schools.
At SLA, hundreds of students marched around the perimeter of the school’s Center City campus with homemade signs reading, "Students 4 Teachers," "Honk 4 Education," and "Why has it come to this?"