Workforce - 'I'll fast for as long as it takes'

US school staff and parents hold hunger strike over job losses

Teachers frustrated by constant reform are often motivated to take industrial action. But one group of parents and school support staff has turned to a tactic more commonly employed by political prisoners: a hunger strike.

The protesters in Philadelphia, US, have been subsisting on water alone as part of their campaign against school closures and job losses.

Two student safety assistants - known as noon-time aides - and two parents began fasting on Monday last week in a bid to force officials into rethinking proposals to lay off more than 3,700 school workers, including 1,202 aides.

The redundancies follow the decision by Philadelphia's School Reform Commission, led by Governor Tom Corbett, to close 23 schools as part of drastic measures to meet a $304 million (#163;198 million) budget deficit.

More than 20 people have taken part in the hunger strike since it began, with some travelling all the way from Chicago and Washington DC, where scores of schools have also been closed in attempts to cut costs.

As TES went to press, just one of the original four fasters, parent Earlene Bly, was still striking. Speaking to TES, Ms Bly said: "When I found out what was happening (with the school closures and redundancies) it just appalled me. I have a daughter in high school and a grandson about to start school and I know what an important role the student safety staff play every day.

"They're the people the school needs the most. Who will look out for the children now? I am willing to fast for as long as it takes."

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