When Philly Bullies Its Outspoken Teachers

Ask any Philadelphia politician or School District administrator what they think about teachers, and they are likely to shower us with praise and compliments. We are the backbone of this city, and should be honored and supported in everything that we do to serve our students.

S1FreeSpeech.pngExcept when that means getting political.

This past spring, Caucus of Working Educators member and Central High School History Teacher George Bezanis spearheaded two efforts to raise awareness of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers’ ongoing contract battle: a highway billboard and an aerial banner.  

S4FrederickDouglas.pngAt the beginning of May, the Philadelphia Board of Ethics responded to these actions by informing him that he was potentially in violation of city lobbying rules and could be charged up to $2,000 for the alleged infraction.

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Join the Caucus and TAG for the 4th Annual Summer Reading Series

Collage_2017.jpgSince 2014, educators, students, parents, community members, and organizers have come together over the summer to participate in a summer reading series focused on racial and social justice themes.  More than 400 people have participated in more than 35 reading groups that have taken place across Philadelphia.  Our reading series builds our membership; develops our leadership ability; and fuels our organizing to build our power as a union, our work as teachers, and our relationships with each other. 

This year, based on survey results, WE and TAG are excited to announce 15 book groups.  You can join groups organized by the Philadelphia Black History Collaborative; educators focused on ending white supremacy; members of the immigration justice ItAG and committee; and leaders in the Restorative Practices Project.  Other groups will focus on building organizing skills; reading empowering works of fiction; growing our historical and current understanding of systems and structures that form our education system.  For the first time, we have a reading group meeting in the Northeast, and groups reading books paired together around a common theme.

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!  All are welcome!  Please sign up here!

Screen_Shot_2017-06-02_at_10.39.05_AM.pngAnd come to the Summer Kick-Off Happy Hour on June 9, from 4:00-7:30PM at Maximum Level Lounge (5118 Sansom Street) to find out more about the reading groups, celebrate the end of the year, enter a raffle to win a copy of one of our books, and join the movement for racial, social, and education justice in Philadelphia.                   

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


Jerry Jordan: Give Us Time to Read our Contract!


On May 11th, the Caucus of Working Educators delivered a letter to Jerry Jordan asking for a minimum one-week reading period for any new contract offer. 

The leadership did not respond to this request by the suggested deadline, so we've now gone public with our request for a reading period!

Sign here if you are a PFT member and want a reading period!

The day after our petition went public, The PFT made a post on their Facebook page with a partial explanation as to what kind of access members would have to a new contract offer. 

We appreciate this response, especially the explanation about the voting process. However, we still ask for an actual reading period for our contract. Being able to ask questions and get an explanation is not enough, especially without any guaranteed time frame for this process. This describes what our last contract vote was like in 2009, which left many members feeling frustrated and misinformed.

To reiterate what we said in our earlier post:

The Caucus of Working Educators enthusiastically supports the PFT leadership in their ongoing contract negotiations, and are very much looking forward to a resolution to what has been a long and bitter struggle. To those ends, we want a contract ratification process that allows the general membership to feel confident in their vote.

This is not an abstract concern -- last year, the administrators in CASA pushed back against their own union leadership when the negotiating team presented a contract offer with limited information and a speedy schedule for a vote. The members voted "no" in part because they felt needlessly pressured by the CASA leadership to make a quick decision. 

Rushing this process risks its success. To those ends, we have requested that the PFT leadership make a public commitment to a minimum one-week reading period as soon as possible.

Sign the petition today!


Sport some new gear!


Everyone in the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers is a fan of PFT gear. It's a badge of pride to wear red and display our shield on a shirt, a hat, a pin. And yet... don't you sometimes wish there was some other way to show off your union pride? The work we do and the battles we wage comprise serious business, but why not inject a hint of fun and surprise—a bit of "cool factor"—into our efforts?

Adam Blyweiss, teacher of CTE Commercial & Advertising Art at Martin Luther King High School and the Communications Secretary for WE, had the idea to spice up union members' wardrobes with gear that reconfigured our name in the styles of Philadelphia sports teams. Our city's fandom, passion, and knowledge about sports are unparalleled in the nation. What better way to make colleagues look twice—and start conversations with our fellow citizens—than tying the games we love to the work we love?

This new t-shirt design, modeled after Philadelphia's pro baseball team, is the first in what we hope will be a series of limited-edition shirts to show public visual support for our union and raise funds for the Caucus of Working Educators. Please visit our Chuffed campaign page for more information and to order your shirts. We hope to hit our pre-order targets during May 2017 so shirts can be produced and mailed out in June 2017.


Our summer reading series is back. Vote today for your top choices!

The Caucus of Working Educators/Teacher Action Group Summer Reading Series is back for the fourth summer of learning together!

Every summer educators, organizers, parents, and community members meet across Philadelphia to read and discuss books. These book groups allow us to build relationships with each other, create new opportunities for leadership, and connect political education back to our organizing.

Vote for your top choices for books today!

The poll closes on Monday, May 22 at midnight. After we vote, we will connect selected books to facilitators and begin registration! If you are interested in facilitating a book group this summer, contact Kathleen Riley.

Are you excited yet? If so, please join us the Summer Reading Series Kick-Off to preview the books, meet the facilitators, connect with other readers, and celebrate the end of the school year: 

Summer Reading Series Kick-Off
Friday, June 9, 4-8PM
Maximum Level Lounge
5118 Sansom Street (street parking and 2 blocks from the El)
$1 shrimp, $5 mussels, $5 fish sandwiches, and drink specials


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Caucus Asks for Contract Reading Period

Did you know that, when a union brings a contract offer to its membership, it's quite common to have a reading period before a vote?

Unions around the country give their members days or even weeks to review the contract before being asked to respond to the offer. This includes teachers unions -- the Chicago Teachers Union typically gives its members three days, and the United Federation of Teachers in New York City has given its members up to a month during previous offers!

Screen_Shot_2017-05-14_at_11.29.12_PM.pngIf you are a teacher in Philadelphia, this might be news to you, because the last time we had a chance to vote on a contract in 2009, members only had a few hours to review an abbreviated version of the contract the same day as the vote. Most members didn't even know that the voice vote held on the floor (of the Liacouras Center at Temple University) was merely symbolic and that the official paper ballot vote happened afterward. This process was speedy even compared to earlier PFT contract offers, where teachers were given a number of days to review print copies of the contract before gathering for a vote. 

The Caucus of Working Educators enthusiastically supports the PFT leadership in their ongoing contract negotiations, and are very much looking forward to a resolution to what has been a long and bitter struggle. To those ends, we want a contract ratification process that allows the general membership to feel confident in their vote.

Screen_Shot_2017-05-14_at_11.33.59_PM.pngThis is not an abstract concern -- last year, the administrators in CASA pushed back against their own union leadership when the negotiating team presented a contract offer with limited information and a speedy schedule for a vote. The members voted "no" in part because they felt needlessly pressured by the CASA leadership to make a quick decision. 

Rushing this process risks its success. To those ends, we have requested that the PFT leadership make a public commitment to a minimum one-week reading period by this Thursday, May 18th. The request was signed by educators from dozens of schools around the district and delivered to Jerry Jordan at the executive board meeting on May 11th. 


Let's empower the rank and file to bring this long contract battle to a successful conclusion! 


May Day 2017: A Glimpse into the Future

The FightMayday-203.jpg

Philly educators took to the streets on May Day to take a stand against austerity budgeting, racist attacks, deportations, wage theft, rampant gentrification, cutbacks on public services such as fair housing and education and, of course, the lack of a PFT contract. Our fight for a fair contract is a fight for the future of every single Philadelphia child and for the future of public education in Philadelphia.



Solidarity: Our Collective Work                                                     Parents, community members and allies understand this larger fight. POWER, Parents United for Public Education, Juntos, New Sanctuary Movement, Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition, Black Lives Matter Philadelphia, Philadelphia Black History Collaborative, Asian Americans United, Vietlead, Teacher Action Group, Youth United for Change, Philadelphia Student Union, 215 Pepople’s Alliance, Reclaim Philadelphia, Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools, Mayday-51.jpgNeighborhood Networks, Americans for Democratic Action and the Fight for 15 are just a few of the nearly 500 individuals, organizations and institutions that stood with us on May Day and called for education justice in this city. The hundreds of educators from over 25 schools who flooded the streets on May Day understand this larger fight as well -- along with the thousands of additional educators who supported the action from the classroom.

Our Union, Our City and the FutureMayday-146.jpg

The “May Day of Advocacy for Philly Schools” gave us a glimpse into the true power we have as rank-and-file members of our union and of our community and parent organizations.  Once we tap into that potential, we will redefine both the culture of our union and the political landscape of this city. Imagine a PFT in which every single member is an active participant -- a changemaker. Imagine a Philadelphia in which we all come together -- unions, community organizations, immigrant rights groups, racial justice organizations, youth groups, parents, allies and advocates -- Mayday-152.jpgto take back our city from the corporate elite and public officials who are destroying our public institutions and weakening our democracy.


What’s next?

May Day showed us that we have the capacity to transform our union and our city. We can make that vision a reality by building relationships with each other, taking collective action, and showing up for our students, our profession, and our future.  


Help build the movement:

  • Become a member of the Caucus of Working Educators.           Click here to join.





  • Come to the next Monthly Organizing Meeting on Tuesday, May 9, 4:30-6:30 at Kensington CAPA (1901 N. Front St. 19122).  Childcare is provided. RSVP here.

 Join the fight for

the schools our children deserve!








May Day of Advocacy for Philly Schools

A contract for teachers is a contract for the whole city

by Jessica Way, PFT Bldg Rep, Franklin Learning Center, & Ismael Jimenez, PFT Bldg Rep, Kensington CAPA


Like you, we love our students. We bend over backwards to make sure they get what they need. The same is true for our coworkers. We have seen our fellow educators raise thousands of dollars for clubs, trips and projects. We have seen them stay at school until late in the evening, uncompensated, because there are no EC funds. We have seen them repeatedly take on additional duties without compensation – roster chair, dean of students, test coordinator, teacher leader, extracurricular activity director – because “somebody has to do it.” 


1300_Days.jpgDespite years of work in under-resourced, understaffed schools, we still have no contract that ensures schools are safe, staffed, and stable. We deserve a contract that demonstrates respect for our expertise, education and compassion. As PFT Building Representatives, we have heard tragic stories that involve fellow teachers taking 2nd & 3rd jobs, defaulting on student loans, neglecting home repairs, and paying their mortgage late. 


We are fighting for our students, our schools, and our lives. On May 1st PFT members, parents and allies from across Philadelphia will be making the brave choice to stand up and speak out on behalf of our students and schools by participating in the “May Day of Advocacy for Public Schools”. At schools across the city large percentages of staffs will not go to work in order to take part in a series of protests.


The tentative schedule is as follows:

  • 7:30-8:30 am: Pickets at schools with staff, parents & community in solidarity

  • 10am: Demonstration, rally & press conference at 440 North Broad

  • March to City Hall

  • 11am: Visits to City Council members and the Mayor at City Hall.

  • 12pm: Un Día Sin Immigrant, Black & Brown Bodies rally at City Hall

  • 4pm: PFT Educator Exit Rally Lea Elementary, 4700 Locust St

  • March to Clark Park

  • 5pm: May Day Rally at Clark Park, 43rd and Baltimore

  • March to Happy Hour (across the street)

  • 7pm: Happy Hour at Clarkville, 43rd and Baltimore


Do you want to get involved and join the action?

  • Sign the Statement of Support for the "May Day of Advocacy in Philly Schools"!  Everyone -- educators, parents, community organizations, education advocates, politicians, and allies -- is invited to sign on and help spread the word.
  • Encourage friends and organizations to join in!  Members of POWER, 215PA, PASNAP, Tuesdays with Toomey and dozens of others are joining us in solidarity. Please reach out to your networks and ask them to stand with us.
  • For more information or to join the planning team, contact Jessica Way at jessicatway70@gmail.com or Tom Quinn at tquinn6935@gmail.com

  • Be creative! Help make the rally and march to City Hall truly special. Musicians, artists: we need you! Make a sign that will get the media’s attention.

  • Help make the big banner -- wide enough to cover the entire front of 440! You have to see it to believe it!  Contact Jessica at jessicatway70@gmail.com for more info.




This is a grassroots organizing effort led by rank-and-file educators at local schools*. Families will be notified in advance and invited to participate in the day of action to fight for the schools our students deserve. Staff at Taylor and SLA organized a similar day of action on International Women’s Day with no disciplinary repercussions and strong parent support.


The SDP acknowledged this as our legal right: “Absences due to participation in protests should be treated like any other request for a day off. The School District of Philadelphia respects the rights of District employees for self-expression, however, nothing must deter us from our primary objective – the education of the children of Philadelphia."

*This effort is not sponsored, organized or endorsed by the leadership of the PFT or any members of the PFT Bargaining Team. The actions of rank-and-file members have no bearing whatsoever on whether the district can declare an impasse in negotiations. Only actions taken by the PFT leadership can trigger an impasse in negotiations.



PFT Contract = Safe, Staffed & Stable Schools





Call Mayor Kenney: Add Funding for Public Education in Thursday's Budget!

Mayor Kenney is scheduled to release his budget on Thursday morning. While our schools continue to be drastically underfunded and understaffed, the educators of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers have gone without a contract since 2013-- including 5 years without raises for cost-of-living, years of experience, or advanced degrees. Students' opportunities to explore arts, music, and many extracurriculars continue to wither, and parents are forced to find new ways to give time and money to support their children's education. 

Through all of this, Philly's educators and parents continue to scrape together what little we have to buy supplies and support our chronically underfunded schools so our city’s most vulnerable children do not continue to suffer because of the inaction of our political leaders.

Mayor Kenney promised significant increases in funding for public education during his campaign, but has yet to deliver.

As he prepares to issue his second annual budget proposal to City Council this Thursday morning, those of us who have sacrificed for far too long are asking the mayor to live up to his campaign promises. It’s time to put words into action.

Call Mayor Kenney today and demand that he fully fund our schools in Thursday's budget proposal. Use the following phone script and make your voice heard:


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Regarding the Confirmation of Betsy DeVos

Duncan_Obama.jpg Trump_Devos.jpg

The Caucus of Working Educators recognizes the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as an unparalleled attack on public education. Her lack of qualifications -- or basic understanding of the position -- is widely recognized, and it is clear that she would never have been appointed were she not rich, white, and well-connected.

Simply stated, DeVos does not believe in public education. Her support for “choice” is a sham that masks the actual consequences of her agenda: the large-scale dismantling of America’s promise to provide education to all its children. As Arne Duncan showed with Race to the Top, the Secretary of Education has wide abilities to shape education policy even in areas that are supposedly left up to states. Even if she is not successful in implementing some of her more dangerous ideas, the Secretary will cause irreversible harm to students by failing to protect them from civil rights violations, neglect of legally mandated services, sexual assault, and more.

We are heartened by the show of solidarity against DeVos from across the political spectrum. The unprecedented opposition shows that the public understands that the stakes here are dire. But, while we are proud to protest this cabinet pick alongside 50 senators and hundreds of thousands of protesters, we cannot ignore a fundamental truth: DeVos is not an anomaly, but the result of a decade-long assault on public education.

We cannot forget that many of the same senators who voted against DeVos have also eagerly endorsed some of her policies. Education “reformers,” Democrats and Republicans alike, have championed anti-public school and anti-union actions disguised as “choice.” Celebrity pundits and policy hucksters have sold much of the country on the idea that public schools -- the backbone of our nation, which DeVos derides as “government schools” -- are irrevocably broken.

These ideas are not just misguided, they are actively harmful to schools, cities, and most importantly children. The policies they promote are a drain on public education, driving defunding, segregation, and disempowerment of communities.

Strong unions should be a firewall against a DeVos, but Republicans and Democrats both have worked tirelessly to make sure teachers and schools are divided, disempowered, and disillusioned.

The good news is that in Philadelphia, we’ve been dealing with reckless reformers financed by out-of-town billionaires for a long time. Here is how to take up the fight:

Step 1: Organize schools and communities

The Caucus of Working Educators has stood proudly with parents, students, and community members to resist privatization, defunding, and other flawed reforms that fail to support our students and communities. If Secretary DeVos thinks she can quietly rip the guts out of our federal protections for students in need, we will be there to raise the alarm and resist together.

Step 2: Band together in solidarity with other resisting groups

Through our Black Lives Matter week of action and support for groups such as Fight for 15, we rebuild and reaffirm the bond between labor, racial, and economic justice.

Step 3: Hold elected officials accountable, and run our people for office

The Caucus of Working Educators hit the streets and phones for candidates like Helen Gym and Governor Tom Wolf, both of whom have been strong advocates for public schools and will continue to protect our city and state in the face of potentially devastating national legislation.

Step 4: Position ourselves as leaders in the resistance against Trump

President Trump’s White Nationalist movement brought us DeVos, and will continue to hurt our kids and our schools. We must work to resist the agenda in all its forms, and thereby tap into the new wave of activism.