Teachers union calls on governor to declare state of emergency amid asbestos crisis

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — After two more schools have closed due to asbestos concerns — bringing the total number of schools affected this year up to nine — the Philadelphia teachers union is calling on the governor to declare a state of emergency. 

The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers says it’s “raining” because of the asbestos crisis, so it's time to dip into the state's $340 million Rainy Day Fund. 

The union is joining several lawmakers and activists in calling on Gov. Tom Wolf to declare a state of emergency — an emergency made all the more critical with the latest closures of Barton and Sullivan elementary schools, according to PFT President Jerry Jordan.

“The need is great,” he said, “and the need for closing the schools because they're not safe for kids is an emergency. It is a crisis that has to be dealt with. And it's going to take the funding in order to do it.”

The emergency declaration would allow the state to allocate money from its Rainy Day Fund. 

The teachers union, through the Fund Our Facilities Coalition, is repeating its call for $170 million to tackle environmental problems in the city's aging school buildings. 

In his budget, the governor asked for nearly $1 billion to address asbestos and lead paint abatement, but Jordan argued that’s only a budget request at this point. And, the money would be available faster through the Rainy Day Fund request. 

However, says a two-thirds vote from the legislature is required before that could happen.