For months, Philadelphia leaders have been touting the economic windfall the upcoming NFL draft is expected to bring to the city.
But public school teachers, who have been waiting for a new contract for five years, say they aren’t expecting any of that to trickle down to them. The negotiations haven't gotten a great deal of public attention, but that may soon change.
George Bezanis, a social studies teacher at Central High School and teachers' union representative, wants to make the contract dispute visible to everyone who will descend upon the city for the draft.
Bezanis has started a crowdfunding page with the goal of hiring a plane to fly a protest banner over the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, where the three-day extravaganza is taking place from April 27-29.
On the crowdfunding page, Bezanis noted the massive banner on City Hall that is promoting the draft event. That banner reads: "The Future is Now."
In response, he wrote, “Where's the banner in support of teachers?" He added, “Why don't we fly a plane over the NFL draft and show them our banner!"
Bezanis had already raised $1,085 as of Tuesday evening from 51 supporters. He is trying to raise $2,000, enough so the aerial messaging can circle the sky for several hours from the Art Museum to City Hall.
“If the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers still doesn't have a contract by April 27, we need to remind our city's elected officials and the leaders of the district what they should really be passionate about – our schools,” Bezanis wrote on his crowd-funding page.
Bezanis is also polling supporters to see what message they think the banner should read. Options featuring puns on the nature of the draft include, “Let’s draft a contract for Philly teachers,” and, “Philly teachers should always be #1 pick.”
This isn’t the first time Bezanis, a Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) representative and Caucus of Working Educators leader, has taken part in large-scale messaging in the name of a new contract. In February, he helped set up a billboard over Interstate 95 that read: “Welcome to Philadelphia, where we don’t value our public school children.”
The billboard was funded by more than $5,000 through a similar crowd-funding campaign.
Public school teachers have gone some 1,200 days without a raise. Their pay-scale was frozen pending a new contract, according to PFT president Jerry T. Jordan.