Fourteen people were arrested during a union rally in Center City this afternoon opposing the Philadelphia School District's plan for massive layoffs and restructuring.

 

More than 1,000 members of the Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ and their supporters gathered at the Municipal Services Building across from City Hall and marched up Broad Street to the district's headquarters near Spring Garden. They are contesting nearly 3,000 layoff notices handed out to school aides, bus drivers and other workers effective at the end of the school year.

 

The layoffs are part of the district's plan to close 40 schools in the next five years and convert more traditional schools to charters. Another major part of the overhaul includes decentralizing operations and relying on third-party organizations to manage clusters of schools, which critics consider privatization. The School Reform Commission has not yet voted on the plan.

 

SEIU members were also joined by members of the teachers' union, student organizations and parents. The protesters had unkind things to say about Gov. Corbett, who cut funding for public education last year.

 

"He is one son of a b---h," Kevin Doyle, executive vice president of SEIU Local 32BJ, told the crowd. "We're gonna stay here on these streets. We're gonna fight and we're gonna win."

 

The arrests took place near the intersection of Broad and Race streets when protesters sat down, blocking traffic. The protesters were loaded into police vans to be transported to police headquarters where they will be charged with obstructing the highway, a summary offense, Chief Inspector Joseph Sullivan said.