How To Organize a “What’s NOT Back To School Night” Rally at Your School!

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Parents and students are the most important allies that teachers’ unions must embrace to secure a strong contract and better education for children.

Families see a site for just the few years that children attend a school, and many misunderstand the gradual return of some staff over the past few years as improvement, without seeing the net loss over the longer term. We still have not returned to pre-2013 levels of funding and staffing, and we cannot allow the lingering “Doomsday Budget” to become the “new normal.”

Parents need the constant reminder that educators’ working conditions are their children’s learning conditions, and once a year we have the opportunity to build solidarity with thousands of families across the city: Back To School Night!

 

So... Get A Rally Going At Your Back To School Night!

For the past two years, staff at several schools have hit the pavement with signs, flyers, chalk, and political theater before BTSN with a great response from parents and the press. We need to take our message city-wide this year! It will look different at every school, but here are some tips:

  • Mobilize your comrades on staff to take action. Here’s a sample mailbox flyer to download and edit.
  • Stage your rally immediately before your official BTSN start time when parents are arriving.
  • Build solidarity with your parents by contacting your Home & School Association or key parent leaders in advance and ask for their support in raising awareness. Invite parents to come early and join educators outside the school before the official BTSN begins.
  • Photo by Kevin McCorry/WHYYGet the real numbers affecting your school, and don’t just include your pay and benefits. Be sure to highlight the direct impact that cuts and freezes have on kids: Larger class-sizes, lost programs, no library, fewer counselors, part-time nurse, old textbooks, broken furniture, dirty classrooms, deferred maintenance, no NTA’s, cuts in total budget, cuts in per-pupil spending. Ask your principal for some of these numbers.
  • Make a leaflet to hand out. Include those numbers, and links for families to get involved in the struggle! Here’s an example leaflet you can copy. 
  • Turn that leaflet into a press release and send it out. Example press release
  • Make signs that parents and students can relate to.
  • Sidewalk chalk your messages near the entrance.
  • Translate materials into the languages that your families speak.
  • Create theater and symbolic displays that drive home the impact of cuts. In the past, staff have brought out student desks to show what a 59-student classroom looks like, set up displays of battered old textbooks, staged a bookselling of Driven By Data books, and collected supply donations from parents.
  • Make a What’s NOT Back To School banner
  • If your principal is sympathetic, ask her to join you, and see if some staff can remain outside for a short time after the start of BTSN, and plan for some parents to stay outside to continue the message.
  • Once inside, continue the conversation as much as possible. Add a slide to your back to school night presentation about how budget cuts are affecting your school this year.


The beginning of the school year is very busy, but colleagues working together can pull together a successful rally very quickly. Central teacher KD Davenport describes how she turned an idea into a hugely successful rally in just a matter of days:

I got an immediate positive response from my colleagues. People were amazing about contributing their gifts: One creative colleague suggested that we line up 59 desks to represent the number of students in an Algebra class; another put together a flier of facts and figures; still others translated that flier into Spanish and Chinese. Once we had a flyer made up, we adapted it into a press

 release and sent out a blast via email and Twitter to the media. Word quickly spread and on Back To School Night we were joined by reporters and photographers from NBC 10, ABC 6, The Inquirer, and WHYY Newsworks.

Our PFT building committee was incredibly supportive and publicized the event to the entire staff. Our administration was also on board. Our principal came outside and spoke to the press, and we even got our Alumni and Home and School associations involved. Helen Gym showed up, as did Jerry Jordan. And we did it all in a matter of days!

Go and do it!

 Photo by David Swanson/Philadelphia Inquirer



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Back 2 School Happy Hour: Sept 1st, 3:30-6pm

Celebrate the end of the third annual Caucus and TAG summer reading series and the beginning of the school year with colleagues, fellow educators, and community members from across the Philadelphia. Invite your coworkers and friends! All are welcome, and childcare is available!

Click here to RSVP and share on facebook, or here to download a printable flyer to share! WE can't wait to see you! 

**Special prices on signature cocktails and draft beers**

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8 Questions on the PFT's Victory in the PA Supreme Court

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On August 15, the PA Supreme Court made their long-awaited ruling that the School District of Philadelphia could not use Act 46 to cancel the teacher’s contract.  This decision was a huge win for the PFT.  The membership should thank Jerry Jordan, the other members of the union leadership and the PFT lawyers for their efforts that resulted in this important victory.

Now that we can all breathe a quick sigh of relief, our membership needs to build on the momentum of the court’s decision--and that includes understanding every angle of the decision. As we move into the next phase of our protracted battle with the district, here are 8 questions rank and file educators are asking about the decision:

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Educators and Unions Join March to End Deportations

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"Not 1 more..." "DEPORTATION!" On Monday, July 25th, the first day of the DNC, local and national migrant justice groups led a march through South Philly to stop all unjust deportations and detentions. The march was led by Juntos and Not1More, and members of the PFT's Caucus of Working Educators and Philly Local UNITE HERE were there to join them.

Educators around the country have begun to join in this fight against unjust treatment of migrants, including many of our students. Teachers in North Carolina have led a nationwide campaign with support of the NEA to free undocumented high-school students, many who were picked up by immigration officers and sent to detention centers while on their way to school. 

In Philly, Working Educators have gathered migrant justice advocates through a summer book club on David Bacon's "Illegal People: How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants". WE has also started a Migrant Justice Group to support groups around the city and work for migrant justice in our schools. 

"Illegal People" book club member Ben Miller and his wife Cristina Martinez, co-owners of restaurant South Philly Barbacoa, provided a barbecue lunch for protestors following Tuesday's march. They will also host an unofficial migrant justice party and concert on Thursday, July 27th from 6pm-2am.

If you'd like to get involved in WE's Migrant Justice work, email us at contact@workingeducators.org! 

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#InvisibleAtDNC: Make visible the issues affecting Philly schools and communities

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As of this Tuesday 7/26, it will be 1,060 days without a contract for the Philadelphia's public school educators. With the Democratic National Convention in town, the eyes of the nation are on Philadelphia. In addition to getting out on the street to make our voices heard and show solidarity with our colleagues in justice, we also have an opportunity to make waves on social media, especially Twitter. 

On Tuesday, the convention will focus on issues for communities, children, and families. Let's take this opportunity to highlight the challenges we face daily in #PHLed, especially those that will not be mentioned from the podium at the DNC. To highlight these issues, we'll use the hashtag #InvisibleatDNC.

In these posts, we can highlight our lack of a contract, the crushing impacts of underfunding on our schools, classrooms and students, the undemocratic SRC leadership of the School District of Philadelphia, the impacts of poverty and systemic oppression on our communities, and any other issues that we see, but don't expect to see discussed from the podium. 

Make a concerted effort to post between 5pm and 8pm on Tuesday to try to get this hashtag trending by the time the primetime coverage begins.
Here’s how to do that:
  • You can post on either Twitter or Facebook using the hashtag #InvisibleatDNC
  • In addition to writing your own posts, favorite and retweet posts from others on the hashtag.
  • Spread the word to other activists, in education and beyond, and invite them to join us.
  • In addition to #InvisibleatDNC, use the hashtags #PHLed and #DemsInPhilly.

As a note, it is important to acknowledge that the DNC has chosen to highlight some critical issues we face on Tuesday night, particularly related to racial justice. The Mothers of the Movement will speak, and it is important that we "step back" and support those causes when they come on stage. So as you watch the coverage, pick moments to be positive as well as moments to be critical! 

Please use #InvisibleAtDNC to speak to your own concerns, and invite your friends, neighbors, and colleagues to do the same! The work is easy, and will go a long way to making education issues visible during this national event.

Sincerely,

Charlie McGeehan, Caucus Member & PFT Building Rep

P.S. Want more DNC action? Come check out caucus members Ismael Jimenez and Tamara Anderson speak truth to power alongside a fabulous set of panelists from around the country tonight at 7PM and tomorrow at 5:30PM.

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Celebrate Our Union Family at Labor Day '16 Parade and Picnic

As summer gets going, mark your calendars now to celebrate Philadelphia's union family at the annual Labor Day Parade and Picnic this year!

We will begin gathering at 9:30am at the Sheetmetal Workers Union Hall (1301 S. Columbus Blvd, near Washington Ave), with the parade to Penn's Landing kicking off at 10am.

Bring your whole family to celebrate after the march, at the AFL-CIO family celebration and picnic from 11-2pm at Penn's Landing! Click here to download the flyer to print or share on social media.

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From Oaxaca to Filadelfia: Envisioning the Society Our Students Deserve

In 2006, Oaxaca’s section of the educator union (CNTE Local 22) led a months-long occupation of their city to create a society that respected the needs of students, workers, and indigenous people. 10 years later, the same educators and union members in Oaxaca and many other regions are again at the front of a movement to create the society our students deserve.

This time, they are fighting corporate education reforms pushing standardized teacher evaluations, mass layoffs, and the end of free education for all. They have been joined by workers across the country demanding policies that serve the interest of working people, including 200,000 doctors and nurses opposed to similar corporate health care policies.

Their challenge to the government’s attempts to create a society based on exploitation, profit, and trade union busting has sparked massive repression, including the widely-reported deaths of 12 union members when police opened fire on protesters blocking a road, and the abduction and imprisonment of many labor and movement leaders.  

These Mexican educators are at the front of a battle for a better society that U.S. teachers and unions are only starting to express. They are standing up against the government’s plan that “education, health, indigenous and campesino territories, and even peace and security are a commodity for whoever can pay for them, that rights are not rights but rather products and services to be snatched away" (EZLN and Congreso Nacional Indigena).

In Philadelphia, our students’ right to a quality education, families’ rights to thriving neighborhoods without fear of deportation or displacement, and workers’ rights to dignified wages and treatment continue to be stripped away via a "death by a thousand cuts". Mexico’s educators and rank-and-file workers are showing us how to fight for just society against a system that wants to turn our communities into commodities.

Local 22 has spent the last few years crafting a counterproposal to the Mexican government’s education reforms. Among the points in the counter proposal are a curriculum based in the diverse, indigenous, and multicultural context of Oaxaca, teaching practices based in critical pedagogy, and the elimination of standardized testing to evaluate either students or teachers.

From Chile to El Salvador to Colombia, Latin America has always served as the United States’ testing ground for market-driven and union-busting policies. Their struggle is our struggle. We send our rage, tears, and admiration to these education workers who have demonstrated time and again that educators and unions have a key role in articulating a vision of the society we deserve.

While the attacks on public education, workers, and unions continue to escalate in the U.S. and across the world, we pledge to fight alongside the educators of Oaxaca and around the world for a society in which education, health, housing, and dignity are rights that every student and worker deserves.

To show our solidarity, please join us for a Oaxacan-style Barricada Cultural on Monday Night in front of Philadelphia’s Mexican Consulate at 8pm. If you would like to contribute financially, members of the Chicago Teachers Union have set up a grassroots fundraiser to support Oaxacan and CNTE educators.

If you would like to learn more or discuss the role of the U.S. in political and economic destabilization in Latin America, please join our summer book club on “Illegal People” by David Bacon (or one of the 14 other book clubs exploring racial justice, culturally relevant teaching, labor history, and many other topics).

Statement written by Max Rosen-Long, Edwin Mayorga, and Jennifer Cox.

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(Milwaukee educators, students, and community members show support for Oaxacan teachers at their Mexican Consulate) 

 

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SRC Testimony: May 26th, 2016

At the SRC meeting on Thursday, May 26th, Caucus Members and Franklin Learning Center teachers Catie Khella and Jessica Way spoke their minds about the current state of the teachers contract and morale in their profession. See their testimony below.

Our union is strongest when the rank and file step up and speak truth to power! As we move past the 1,000-day mark of our canceled contract, keep sharing your story with your friends, family, communities, and higher-ups as well. The entire city needs to know the reality of our schools. 

Jessica Way SRC testimony May 26, 2016 from Defend Public Education! on Vimeo.

Catherine Khella SRC testimony - May 26, 2016 from Defend Public Education! on Vimeo.

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Building a Movement by Reading Together: Sign up for a Summer Book Club Today!

In 2014, when the Caucus of Working Educators was just a few months old, WE teamed with TAG-Philly to offer 9 book groups with about 85 participants for the purpose of bringing people together and learning about social justice unionism, threats to public education, and racial justice struggles in Philadelphia. Last year, WE and TAG sponsored twelve groups with 170 participants with a focus on racial justice.

This year, based on survey results, WE and TAG are excited to announce 15 book groups for 2016!

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Want to meet other people committed to educational justice struggles and other social movements in Philadelphia? Want to learn about the school-to-prison pipeline, the #BlackLivesMatter movement, organizing, feminism, gender & sexuality in education, or another topic? Want to read a classic by bell hooks or Paulo Freire or a New York Times best seller by Ta-Nehisi Coates? Want to be part of a strong and growing movement of educators and allies committed to public education?

Sign up for a book (or five) today!

And come to the Summer Kick-Off Happy Hour on June 2 at Frankford Hall from 4-7pm to find out more about the books and talk to other participants!

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This summer, we continue the tradition of bringing together people from all walks of life and all parts of the city- parents, teachers, nurses, counselors, activists, community members, students, and anyone else!                       

Want to learn more about past book clubs and how they started? Read this article on the Summer Reading Series in Perspectives on Urban Education by WE supporting member Kathleen Riley.

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1,000+ DAYS: NO CONTRACT...still here for Philly students!

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Next Friday, May 27, 2016 marks 1,000 days since the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers contract with the School District of Philadelphia ran out. Since then, instead of attempting to negotiate a fair contract, the School Reform Commission and Superintendent Hite have chosen to act to make it harder for Philly students to learn and teachers to teach—and, frankly, to live comfortably and productively.

They have attempted to cancel our status quo contract and impose terms on teachers. They have cheapened the teaching profession by botching contracts for filling substitute positions. They have spent millions to battle lawsuits brought to demand proper services and compensation. They are unwilling and unable to manage the health, counseling, and environmental needs of their schools' climate. They have funneled three-quarters of a billion dollars to unproven and unaccountable charter school operators.

The district and city residents need constant reminders that not only is a fair contract for Philadelphia teachers a huge step toward addressing these issues, but we are continuing to do our jobs even while Hite and the SRC are not. With inspiration from our colleagues in the Harrisburg Education Association, this #1000Days graphic was made by PFT members for PFT members for social media, and for a limited number of buttons to be distributed to PFT members and our supporters.

You are welcome to wear and share these as you see fit, even now, but we hope everyone will publicly show off our message in full force beginning Friday, May 27, and every day until the PFT wins a new, fair contract. Remind District leaders that we stand in solidarity, and remind our city that we stand for and with its children.

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