Last week in the Philadelphia School District, a student attending a public school with no full time nurse on staff died due to health complications. This is the second time this has happened in a Philadelphia public school this year, but both of these incidents are different. The first time was back in October when Laporshia Massey suffered an asthma attack, was sent home, and then taken to the hospital, where she would later pass away, by her father. The second incident happened last week when Sebastian Genera suffered a heart attack from a rare genetic illness and later passed away at Philadelphia Children's Hospital.
Before it was known how Genera passed away, the AFT, who acknowledges that they do not know if a school nurse could have saved Genera's life, sent Governor Corbett the following letter:
The last time we wrote, the Philadelphia community was grieving the loss of Laporshia Massey, a 12-year-old who died from asthma complications that started at school. Today, tragically, we grieve once more. Again, a child has been stolen from us much too soon—this time a 7-year-old from Jackson Elementary School. Again, there was no school nurse on site.Then earlier today, Diane Ratvich points out that a school teacher from Pennsylvania sent Governor Corbett a letter about this situation, and the Governor's response went into full union bashing mode because the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers have yet to accept more pay cuts. The Governor wrote:
Five years ago at Jackson Elementary, there was a full-time school nurse. Today, the dedicated nurse who has served the Jackson community for 15 years only visits on Thursdays and every other Friday.
Since you took office in 2011, you slashed school funding by $1 billion and turned down Medicaid funding that could have helped many of Philadelphia’s children. The number of school nurses in Philadelphia has fallen from 289 to 179. Now, instead of focusing on the health needs of students at one school, nurses in Philadelphia’s public schools cover five or six schools, sometimes visiting each school only once every other week.
We don’t know if a school nurse could have saved this young boy. But we do know every child deserves a full-time nurse in his or her school. We do know all parents deserve to know that their child will be safe and his or her most basic needs will be tended to at school. We do know that all Philadelphia children deserve better.
Mr. Governor, we cannot tolerate one more life lost, one more dream snatched from our children. You have the power to fix what you have broken. Restore full and fair funding to all Pennsylvania schools. And do it now.
“Putting the safety and educational needs of our students first must continue to be our top priority. There is an appropriate time and place to call for education policy discussions. Right now, our thoughts should be with the child’s family, friends, school and community who have all been through an extremely traumatic situation.So there you have it. It's the union's fault! They haven't accepted more austerity!
I am deeply troubled that the union leadership of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers – and by extension the American Federation of Teachers – would use the recent tragedy at Jackson Elementary as an opportunity to make a political statement. For more than a year, we all have asked the union leadership – who are disconnected from the great teachers in Philadelphia who are in the classroom every day – to come to the table and engage in meaningful negotiations to assist in the financial recovery of the Philadelphia School District.
The Commonwealth, the School District, the School Reform Commission and City Council are all working to contribute to the success of Philadelphia’s schools and students. I will continue to ask the union leadership to put the children of Philadelphia first and engage in a meaningful dialogue and a shared vision for the future of the children of Philadelphia.