Good Evening, my name is Michelle Gainer, and I have proudly served the City of Philadelphia as an educator for 4 years, with 3 of those years spent teaching 5th Grade for the School District of Philadelphia in the Hunting Park Neighborhood.
In this time I have increased my efficacy in the classroom dramatically, received my Masters Degree from UPENN, taken on leadership roles in my school, and run multiple student clubs and after school programs. However, my salary remains frozen at the very bottom of the pay scale. I wish this plight was unique and mine alone, but unfortunately it is not. In my school alone, of the 24 classroom teachers, 11 are frozen in steps 1 – 4, it is not unlikely that this is the reality for many of the 11,000 PFT Teachers in this school district.
Our district is on the verge of a crisis that no recruitment campaign will have the power to assuage. In the next 3 years, between teachers who are retiring, and teachers who are frozen in those bottom 3 – 4 steps, the district will be faced with unprecedented teacher attrition rates. Teachers who are nearing between 5 and 10 years of classroom experience, teachers who should be stepping up into leadership roles in their buildings, as coaches and instructional leads, mentoring new teachers – the people you should be able to count on to build and strengthen school culture and set the standard of high expectations for student achievement and behavior – these are the people that will be forced out, because they will longer able to afford to live on their 2012 dollars and experience.
Ultimately, the stagnation in salary hurts the students, not the teachers. The teachers will take that experience and they will go on to lead other schools, they will move out of this city and take their tax dollars and their children, who should be attending Philadelphia Public Schools, with them. It is the students and families who remain in the schools where turnover will have increased who will have their future opportunities lessened. The students who will be spending each year in front of a teacher who may have less than 3 years of experience, throughout the entirety of their public education.
Our city could serve as an innovator in public education. We could set the national standard for what reinvestment in public schools should look like, between greening our buildings, investing in new programs, curriculums, and technology, it is time to find the funding to invest in our greatest resource….our teachers. We are known as the city of Eds and Meds…wouldn’t it be nice if those institutions were filled with graduates from Philadelphia public high schools?