Students protest against school privatization

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Some 1,000 Philadelphia public school students led a demonstration here Nov. 20 against privatization and for full school funding.

Busloads of trade unionists, parents, and community leaders joined the students. Hospital Workers Union 1199C paid for the buses. Adults visited friends and foes in the state legislature while Philadelphia Student Union leaders addressed the crowd from the Capitol steps.

The students noted that advocates of privatization and charter schools do not ask suburban public schools to share their funds with corporate executives, nor do they ask rich school districts to accept non-union workers. The students vowed that rallies would continue as long as their democratic rights are challenged.

Jacob Winterstein of the Student Union denounced administrators who care less about education than about the amount of money they can make.

The reference was to the Edison Corporation, a company picked to evaluate the Philadelphia public school system in defiance of Judge Doris Smith’s court order to desegregate and fully fund Philadelphia’s schools.

Signs read, “Keep our public schools public,” “Our schools are not for sale” and “Private corporation does not equal public education.”

Hospital Workers President Henry Nicholas said that he was honored when the Student Union asked for buses and vowed to promote unity in the struggle to save the city’s schools. The students invited State Rep. Curtis Thomas to address the crowd. Thomas said that although the schools have problems, they can be solved if given the proper resources. He said that there can be no quality education when paint peals from classroom ceilings and books are in short supply.

Gov. Mark Schweiker agreed not to put the central administration under Edison control. Schweiker and Philadelphia Mayor John Street are to negotiate on the remainder of the plan.

The students vowed to walk out of school and rally at City Hall Nov. 29, one day before the scheduled date for the governor to decide on the fate of the schools.