Philly school hunger striker says she’s hanging in there
Bly, a mother of a ninth grader in Philadelphia, began a hunger strike put together with members of Unite Here, the union representing noontime aides and safety workers in Philadelphia schools, on Monday. She and several others are camped out near Broad and Walnut, outside of the building which houses Gov. Tom Corbett’s office, with the intention of bringing attention to the school district funding crisis—specifically, the almost 3,800 recently-laid off workers. And, as Bly explained when I met up with her today, that seems to be happening.
“I think the word has spread farther than we even though that it would,” she said as I sat next to her. “Today we just did an interview with the Times of London, so that’s amazing. We have so much support.”
She admits she’s hungry, but got over the worst of it yesterday. “I do feel a little hungry but not like I’m going to run over there to the Rite Aid and get some cheese twists or something,” she says.
There have been numerous stories around the world written about the dire state of Philadelphia’s school system and the much-needed funds it has yet to receive. In their budget, the state House dedicated a total of $1.5 million of the requested $120 million for the school district, and the state Senate is still working on their end. As it happens, there are several school systems around the state in desperate need of funding.
Council has passed a bill that would up the tax on cigarettes to help pay for the budget gap, which, along with “improvement in tax collections projected by the Administration,” according to a press release, they expect to total $74.4 million in new funding. That tax needs to be approved by the state General Assembly.
CBS Philly wrote today that the federal government may be considering opening up funds for Philadelphia’s school district. “A high-placed state legislative source says the discussions involve at least $120 million in Health and Human Service dollars that have been held back from Pennsylvania for a decade or longer by the feds,” according to the report.
Bly and the other strikers will testify before City Council tomorrow. She’s excited for that.
“I’m going to say what I’ve been saying for the past three days,” she said: “We want our kids to be safe, and until they are and until they make a definite decision about what they’re going to do about he schools, we’re going to be out here and we’re going to keep starving ourselves until they make a decision. So, that’s all I can say is what I’ve been saying. It’s straight from the heart.”
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