October 10, 2013


Asthma doesn't have to be fatal. It can be fatal, but it doesn't need to be. One of the reasons school nurses are so important is because they are trained to understand the effects of an acute asthma attack. This is a tragedy that didn't need to happen:

Sixth-grader Laporshia Massey died from asthma complications, according to her father, who says he rushed her to the emergency room soon after she got home from school on the afternoon of Sept. 25. He says Laporshia had begun to feel ill earlier that day at Bryant Elementary School, where a nurse is on staff only two days a week. This day was not one of those days.


But neither Burch nor Mitchell realized how serious the situation was. Burch, who told his daughter they would take care of her symptoms when she got home, believes that a trained professional would have seen the danger. “Why,” he asks, “didn’t [the school] take her to the hospital?”

Seeing his daughter’s state when she arrived home at about 3:15 p.m., Burch says, he immediately gave her medication and then rushed her to the hospital. She collapsed in the car, at which point Burch flagged down a passing ambulance in the middle of traffic. Burch says his daughter later died at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, which could not confirm any details, including the time of her arrival, due to privacy constraints.

“They told her school was almost out, and she’d get out of school and go straight home,” says one district source, who requested anonymity because she was not authorized to speak to the press. “She went to the teacher,” who told her “there’s no nurse, and just to be calm.”


After the initial cuts, one protesting nurse specifically warned that other staff were not competent to deal with asthmatic students in her absence. This year, Parents United for Public Education and the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia have compiled a list of complaints filed with the state Secretary of Education, including those having to do with health and safety — some of which were made by parents worried for their asthmatic children.

There's no school nurse on duty because Governor Corbett won't pay for them until teachers cry "uncle."

Corbett, as you may recall, is withholding funding from the schools to break the unions, and now he has some new partners.

From an October 1 report:

Frustrated by the slow pace of negotiations for a new contract for Philadelphia teachers, a coalition of education and parents' groups says it will call on the School Reform Commission Monday to immediately pull seniority off the bargaining table and give Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. a free hand in assigning staff.

The announcement urging the move, scheduled for midday Monday, is expected to rekindle fierce debate over powers granted to the SRC under the law that led to the state takeover of city schools in 2001.

"If somebody wanted to create a legal atomic bomb, this is it," Ralph J. Teti, the lawyer who represents the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, said Sunday.


Jonathan Cetel, executive director of the state group PennCan, which seeks to speed the pace of education improvement, said Sunday both efforts were aimed at bringing reform to "an outdated model," in which the most recent hires are laid off first and brought back last.

Cetel, whose group is heading Monday's call for action from the SRC with the nonprofit Philadelphia School Partnership and Parent Power, said negotiations with the PFT had been going on for seven months. Those talks, he said "have made little or no progress, and it is time for immediate action to improve public education in Philadelphia."

He also said imposing the seniority changes could help trigger the release of $45 million from the state so Hite can recall more counselors and other staffers laid off in June. The legislature required the district to show it was making changes to get the grant.

Shorter PennCan: Pay the seniority ransom to release the paltry sum promised in advance to fund the schools and more specifically, school nurses and counselors.

PennCan is the Pennsylvania satellite for the education reform group known as 50Can, a education reform group heavily funded by the Walton Family Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. PennCan receives a lot of funding from local groups like:

  • Catholics for Communications and Strategic Execution - That's the PR arm of the Catholic Church, focused on promoting parochial education.
  • Evelyn McNiff - Board Member at Philadelphia School Partnership, a group of Wall Street Investors who claim to care about Philly schools
  • Janine and Jeff Yass - Another Wall Street billionaire, also serves on the board of the Cato Institute
  • Haldeman Family Foundation - Charles E. Haldeman is the former president of Freddie Mac
  • Michael & Jeannie O'Neill - Michael O'Neill is the chairman of Citigroup
  • Robert J. Hall - Venture capitalist, president of Mid-Atlantic Teach for America
  • William Penn Foundation - A large local foundation with a heavy focus on charter school creation.

What do those folks know about education? Or asthma? Or what it's like to be a kid who can't breathe and has no resources for help?

This childish maneuver on Corbett and partners' part to force teachers to their knees has real meaning to real people. When a child is suffering from an asthma attack that proves to be fatal because there was no trained health professional on the premises who could see the severity, it goes beyond ideological differences. A 12-year old girl is dead for a completely preventable reason.

It's time for humanity to trump billionaires. Put those nurses back, Governor Corbett. Let the teachers teach. Treat them like professionals and stop demonizing them to feed your billionaires.

Can you help us out?

For 18 years we have been exposing Washington lies and untangling media deceit, but now Facebook is drowning us in an ocean of right wing lies. Please give a one-time or recurring donation, or buy a year's subscription for an ad-free experience. Thank you.


We welcome relevant, respectful comments. Any comments that are sexist or in any other way deemed hateful by our staff will be deleted and constitute grounds for a ban from posting on the site. Please refer to our Terms of Service for information on our posting policy.