PFT Issues Report on School Facilities: Scope and Solutions

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PHILADELPHIA—The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers today issued a report outlining an updated scope of the facilities crisis along with urgently needed solutions.
The toxic schools crisis in Philadelphia and across the commonwealth is emblematic of just how profoundly the deep seated, systemically racist underfunding of our schools has impacted our students.
Our young people, the majority of whom are Black and brown and experiencing poverty, have had to endure conditions that would never, ever be tolerated in wealthier, whiter school districts.
Conditions outlined in the report include the following:
  • Overall Conditions
  • Lead in Water
  • Lead in Paint
  • Asbestos
  • Ventilation
  • Roofing Issues
The report provides a number of appendices, including photos of recent toxic conditions.
On the release of the report, PFT President Jerry Jordan said, "Our union remains deeply committed to ensuring that every child and school staff member has access to healthy and safe school facilities.  In the past week alone, one high school has sent dozens of disturbing photos outlining years of neglect in their building. Those concerns, along with hundreds of others, need to be addressed."
There are a number of urgent fixes that are required:
  1. Immediate funding
  2. Establish the FEAC (Facility Environmental Advisory Committee)
  3. Data access, sharing, & transparency
  4. Response to concerns (via the Healthy Schools App and other means)
On the need for the implementation of these action items, AFTPA President Arthur Steinberg noted, "There are real solutions at hand to these urgent problems. Access to data along with a true collaborative and evaluative process will be crucial to move forward. It's unconscionable that students and staff enter school buildings wondering whether lead, asbestos, mold and other toxins will jeopardize their health."
PFT HW Director of Environmental Science Jerry Roseman agreed noting, "I cannot overstate the urgency of the crisis we outline here. The need for the solutions we outlined is dire. While the FEAC may seem like a 'nice to have,' I can tell you that a functional Advisory Committee, implemented in the way we outline in the report, is absolutely essential. As a decades long professional in this field, I am confident that if the District truly commits to the processes we've outlined in this document, and we secure the desperately needed funding to undertake remediation and modernization, we can, once and for all, address the terrible crisis of toxic schools."
PFT President Jerry Jordan concluded, "Oversight will be critical as we move forward, and so will funding. As a result of the American Rescue Plan, the District has a once in a generation opportunity to truly make significant and immediate investment in this facilities crisis. But the funding needs for facilities will not stop after the allocation of this funding. It is incumbent upon the city, state, and federal government to commit to doing their part in the ongoing, sustainable funding for remediation and modernization. Our students and staff deserve nothing less."
Download the full report, including photos of conditions: