Bipartisan support for Shale tax grows

Sen. Vincent Hughes is surrounded by supporters outside the School District of Philadelphia’s offices last month as he announces a legislative proposal that calls for a Marcellus Shale tax. — PHOTO BY TRIBUNE CHIEF PHOTOGRAPHER ABDUL R. SULAYMAN

Two public schools that could be handed over to charter school operators will be featured in a new series of video vignettes that provide a perspective of those who know best, a spokesman for Philadelphia Federation of Teachers said on Friday.

“”We thought it was time to start hearing from parents and students and schools that are under-resourced about what’s really going on in there,” said George Jackson, spokesman for the 15,000-member union, which has been working without a new contract since the terms of the previous bargaining agreement expired in September.

“What we typically get is people who haven’t been in the classroom telling us what we need to do in the classroom. Let’s flip that and hear from people who are in the classroom: teachers, students and parents who want the best for their kids,” Jackson said.

The PFT is collaborating with Media Mobilizing Project on creating video vignettes about school experiences from the perspective of students, teachers and parents. The debut video, “Revival from the Roots: A Tour of Philly Neighborhood Schools,” is posted on the Media Mobilizing Project’s website,

“These kids want to learn and when you have kids who want to learn, you have potential,” Jackson added.

Edward T. Steel Elementary School, 4301 Wayne Ave., and Hon. Luis Munoz Marin School, 3300 N. Third St., could open as Renaissance charter schools in September 2014 as part of an effort to improve academic outcomes. Both schools are managed by the district.

The School Reform Commission, which oversees the school district, is scheduled to vote on the proposal at its meeting in May. Steel Elementary would be run by Mastery Charter Schools and Marin School would be operated by ASPIRA of Pennsylvania. Both charter school operators have strong track records in turning around low performing schools.

Jackson said he doesn’t know if the video series will have a lasting impact but the teachers union is interested in sparking debate about conditions at Philadelphia public schools.

Featured in a video are PFT’s president Jerry Jordan who visits West Philadelphia High School along with Helen Gym, co-founder of Parents United for Public Education. In the video, nearly nine minutes in length, the two local education advocates talk to students, parents and school staff about the impact of funding cuts on school programs and cutbacks in staff, including nurses and guidance counselors.

“We plan follow up videos and discussions around these issues,” Jackson said. “Parents, students and staff but talk about the promise too. That’s what the videos are meant to do.”

In the past, PFT has produced TV ads and videos but Jackson said this is the first collaboration with Media Mobilizing Project, which uses modern technology to assist in amplifying the message. The Media Mobilizing Project uses the latest technology to create video vignettes with narratives highlighting issues in public schools.

PFT offices were closed Friday in observation of the Easter/Passover holiday, but Jackson said the union president has been energized by discussions with students, teachers and parents. Jackson graduated from the original West Philadelphia High School.


Contact Staff Writer Wilford Shamlin III at (215) 893-5742 or

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