Local 5106 also signed on to the letter of support (found below) to provide a safer environment for the students and teachers of the Philadelphia Public Schools.
As members of the Fund Our Facilities Coalition, we commend you for your leadership throughout the COVID-19 crisis. Your commitment to securing essential resources and to following the science in making reopening decisions has undoubtedly saved countless lives. But we need more. Ultimately, we know that any efforts to reopen school buildings will have significant costs. In order to secure PPE, to make urgent upgrades to ventilation systems, to secure connectivity for school communities—communities across the commonwealth are not going to be able to thrive without urgent resources. At the start of July, our Coalition requested that the $100M in discretionary GEER funding be allocated to facilities issues across the commonwealth. We appreciate that the funds available are now approximately $20M, as much of the funding has since been spent for important initiatives. Certainly, the funding you allocated for programs for students with special needs and other initiatives are very worthy of these critical investments. With approximately 1/5 of the discretionary CARES funding now available via GEER, we believe it is critically important that this funding be allocated towards a host of facilities issues across the state. This funding, like our request for the full $100M, should be allocated via the funding formula. All funding through CARES or any subsequent state or federal funding should utilize this formula to ensure that communities across the commonwealth receive their fair share. The RCAP proposal to secure $1B in infrastructure investment via grants is significant. Our coalition will continue to advocate for this initiative. However, given the time constraints on not only approving that initiative via the legislature, and the funding applications and distribution if and when it is approved, immediate facilities investments are needed. We cannot wait, and the RCAP proposal is far from a sure source of funding. We are not talking about “nice to have” resources. We are talking about urgent, life saving resources. The inequity issues that plague our schools because of decades of systemic refusal to invest in, or quite frankly even value the humanity of, our students is appalling. In a wealthier, whiter school district, we would never, ever have to fight this hard for the bare minimum. This is an urgent call to action, and we need your commitment now more than ever. Our students, educators, families, and communities are counting on your bold and definitive action.