Elected officials and unions urge HEROES Act passage; blast Trump and McConnell
Councilman Derek Green told the press, 'This is an issue not just in Philadelphia. We need resources to fund our facilities and guarantee safe schools everywhere.' | AFT Local 3 (PFT) via Twitter

PHILADELPHIA—Lowell Elementary School resembles many of the over 200 public schools in Philadelphia—brick and mortar surrounded by cracked sidewalks and an urban neighborhood, where in some cases, generations of family members have attended. Lowell, however, happens to be the school where Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-Penn., started his education and where his mother worked for years as a crossing guard.

The congressman shared this memory as he joined other speakers on the street corner outside the school to call attention to the urgent need for the federal government to act and support public schools. Speaker after speaker stressed the need for Washington—in particular the Senate and President Trump—to step up and pass the HEROES Act and deliver desperately-needed resources to the nation’s schools.

AFT President Randi Weingarten. | AFT Local 3 (PFT) via Twitter

President Jerry Jordan of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (AFT Local 3) introduced a lineup of local, state, and federal elected officials and one prominent clergyman who brought a powerful message.

Bishop Dwayne Royster of POWER said, “It is a sin that our U.S. government has abandoned children all across this city and this country. Black lives matter! Black and brown children matter! Black, brown, Asian, and Indigenous children, along with white children, need the resources to go to school safely.”

Boyle emphasized that the Trump administration in D.C. is saying to the current and future generations: “The American Dream does not apply to you…. But we have the opportunity and the capacity to have a second New Deal in our country!”

State Sen. Shareef Street pointed out that many rural school districts in Pennsylvania had some of the worst funded schools in the state, and he reminded everyone that many small business people did not get the loans from the federal government that went instead to big business corporate backers of the president.

Councilwoman Helen Gym, mother of a high school senior, recalled that the current funding crisis did not start with the pandemic. Ten years ago, she said, Pennsylvania had a governor (Tom Corbett) who cut a billion dollars from the school budget, and the state had been struggling to come back from that setback ever since.

Congressman Boyle addresses the press conference. | AFT Local 3 (PFT) via Twitter

AFT national President Randi Weingarten emphasized the importance of the united front that speakers were showing in the current moment: “Yes, we have our fights locally, but today we see no federal leadership; the administration did nothing until they saw what was happening on Wall Street. All we get from the White House are capitalized tweets saying ‘Schools must reopen.’” She blasted Senate leader Mitch McConnell for his “let the cities and states go bankrupt” attitude.

Speakers also included Philadelphia City Councilmen Derek Green and the president of the AFT in Pennsylvania (AFTPA), Arthur Steinberg, who said “the pandemic has put a sharp focus on the inequities in our society; many rural counties in Pennsylvania have not had access to broadband internet.”

The press conference was part of the nationwide “Day of Action” initiated by the AFT to call attention to the urgent need for the White House and Senate to move on passage of the HEROES Act.


Ben Sears
Ben Sears

Ben Sears is a retired teacher and AFT member in Philadelphia. He is the author, as John Bennett Sears, of the book "The Electrical Unions and the Cold War" (International Publishers 2019).