PHILADELPHIA – American Federation of Teachers union president Rhonda Weingarten is doing what she does best: transforming a tragedy into a political advantage to promote the union cause.
Weingarten recently wrote to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett about the death of West Philadelphia sixth-grader Laporcha Massey, who succumbed to asthma complications after complaining about feeling ill at school, Philly.com reports.
Two years ago, Philadelphia school officials laid off about 100 nurses to balance the district’s budget, and Bryant Elementary School, the school Massey attended, only had a nurse on duty two days per week.
A nurse was not on duty when Laporcha complained she felt sick, but school officials repeatedly attempted to contact her parents without success. A school aid drove Laporcha home after nobody came to pick the 12-year-old up from school, Philly.com reports.
The girl’s father took Laporcha to the emergency room after she arrived home from school and she was later transferred to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where she died that evening. Daniel Burch, Laporcha’s father, suggested to the City Paper his daughter may still be alive if a nurse had been at school that day.
For Weingarten, the tragic death is a golden opportunity to try to wrestle millions in extra funding from the state.
The state legislature has voted to give Philadelphia schools an additional $45 million in aid once district and union officials craft a labor agreement with significant financial concessions and reforms. The Philadelphia school district is in dire financial straits but the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (the union) has refused to help put the budget back on track.
“We’ll never know if having a school nurse on site would have spared Laporcha’s life, but we do know that school nurses are trained to detect symptoms of asthma attacks,” Weingarten wrote to Corbett, according to Philly.com.
“With that money, we can come one step closer to making Philadelphia neighborhood public schools safe and healthy,” she wrote.
Weingarten is trying to shame the state into forking over more tax dollars to the district, presumably to hire more employees – union dues payers – without any concessions from the PFT.
But the fact is that district officials wouldn’t have been forced to lay off school nurses if the PFT was more willing to compromise at the collective bargaining table. Thousands of Philadelphia school employees have been laid off in recent years to maintain expensive union perks and bonuses for the PFT’s most senior members.
Should someone suggest that the girl’s death was the result of the union’s greed?
If anything, Laporcha’s death makes a compelling case for state lawmakers to finally impose a teachers union contract that will cut unnecessary labor spending, so the district can once again afford to maintain basic services.
Weingarten’s attempt to use the young girl’s death to leverage additional funding from taxpayers, and avoid long-overdue union concessions, is thoroughly disgusting. She should be ashamed of herself.
By Victor Skinner at EAGnews.org