My name is Liz Noone and I’m proud to be a 4th grade teacher at Taylor Elementary School. On March 8th, International Women’s Day, 36 of my colleagues called out of work to demonstrate the impact that women have in our school system.
On that day, instead of teaching our beloved students, we spoke to city council members about the dispute over a new teacher contract. Academic classes at Taylor had to be canceled, and most parents kept their students home that day. That morning, about 15 staff members picketed in front of the school to explain to parents why we were taking action. The vast majority of parents supported our choice. We told them that teachers have waited more than 1,200 days for a contract and the teachers at Taylor have learned that being complacent does not work.
While we would all have loved to be with our students on that day, we know that advocating for a fair contract is also advocating for our students. Simply put, our teachers are leaving. Each year, many teachers in our school come to the conclusion that they can no longer afford to continue teaching in Philadelphia. Each teacher who leaves takes with them not only instructional knowledge but also relationships with students, staff and families. This instability erodes our school culture and our students’ academic outcomes.
A fair teacher contract attracts and retains good teachers, but it also ensures a safe learning environment for students – guaranteeing things like potable water and reasonable class sizes. A fair contract for teachers is a step towards quality education in Philadelphia. You can’t put our students first when their teachers are last.