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Union leaders, lawmakers join to find money to repair Philly school buildings

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A coalition of union leaders and lawmakers is forming to raise money to address conditions inside Philadelphia’s aging school buildings.

“How do you allow a child to be in a building with a roof that is leaking, or walls that are crumbling?” American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten said.

Weingarten joined Philadelphia councilmembers and state legislators outside 130-year-old Francis Scott Key Elementary School, the oldest school in the district. The group announced a coalition they call “Fund Our Facilities,” which has a goal of finding $170 million to pay for more school cleaning staff, exterminators, fixing water leaks, removing lead paint, upgrading electrical and lighting systems and repairing bathrooms.

Pa. Sen. Vincent Hughes says the need is urgent.

“No child can learn if they have to go to school — no teacher can teach if they have to be in a school — where there’s lead, there’s asbestos, there’s infestation. It’s not right,” Hughes said.

The group plans to seek the money from local, state and federal sources, but they didn’t have a specific strategy. 

Councilwoman Helen Gym said one thing is clear: “This work needs cash. This is not charity. This is not finding a little bit of change as the extras in our budget session. This takes real hard cash.”

The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers Health and Welfare Fund came up withthe $170 million figure after analyzing conditions in school buildings.

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