Keziah Ridgeway testimony transcript from the SRC meeting of April 27, 2017

 

Keziah Ridgeway
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Good evening,

In order for me to properly answer the question: Why do teachers deserve a contract? I need to first answer the question: Why do I teach?

That question can only be answered by looking back at my time as a Philadelphia public school student. I’m a Philadelphia native. Born and raised as Will Smith said. My success, sitting before you today as an educator can very much be attributed to my teachers. They were dedicated, passionate, sacrificial and knowledgeable.

My teachers were real life super heroes. They helped me dream past my life as a skinny little brown girl from North Philly and shoot for the stars.

I decided to teach in order to honor them. I fully understood what I was subjecting myself to for the rest of my life. I knew I would never be rich and am okay with that.

Yet, what I am not okay with is forcing us to become highly qualified and not properly compensating us for our expertise and time as professionals. Teachers are the reason we are all here today, including all of you.

My adoptive mother did not give 20 years to this district and sacrifice time & money to earn a master’s plus 30 only to be told one month after receiving it that her raise was no longer on the table. Yet she makes this sacrifice.

We do not teach in order to work two to three jobs to make ends meet. Yet many have made that sacrifice. Would you?

We do not teach to have more than 33 students (who deserve better) packed into a classroom because the lack of teacher support has caused a critical shortage of quality educators. Yet many have made that sacrifice.

We do not teach in order to figure out which bills aren’t being paid because the cost of living has gone up but our income is stuck at $49,000, 54,000 etc. four years later. Yet many have made that sacrifice.

We do not teach in order to cancel our after school homework clubs because we can’t afford to put our children in aftercare. Yet many have made that sacrifice.

When you continue to hold out on a contract for us you do the students a disservice, you do the parents a disservice, but more importantly, you do a disservice to teachers who are the last line of defense before a student drops out and becomes a statistic. Lost to the system forever.

Teachers are superheroes but they are also human.

Philadelphia is bleeding good teachers. The city has the money.

Enough is Enough.

It’s time for a fair contract so we teachers can get back to the business of creating the future professionals of tomorrow who will lead the next generation and replace all of us, including you.

Keziah Ridgeway