Book Event: "Strike Back" with WE on July 10th

Update: Working Educators is now an official co-sponsor of this event!

For inspiration on reigniting the labor movement today, Joe Burns believes we should look to the militant public worker strikes of the 60's and 70's. In Strike Back: Using the Militant Tactics of Labor's Past to Reignite Public Sector Unionism Today, Burns explores how during the 1960s and 1970s hundreds of thousands of teachers, sanitation workers, and other public employees rose up to demand collective bargaining rights in one of the greatest upsurges of labor history.

Joe Burns' book "Strike Back" uncovers this history of militancy to provide tactics for a new generation of public employees facing unprecedented attacks on their collective bargaining rights.

On July 10th at the Wooden Shoe, Joe will be discussing his book and leading a conversation on how we can rebuild a powerful labor movement in Philadelphia. Working Educators will be there, and we hope you can join us too!

Strike Back: Using the Militant Tactics of Labor's Past to Reignite Public Sector Unionism Today, by Joe Burns

Thursday, July 10th at 7pm

Wooden Shoe Books

704 South St, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19147

Click here to RSVP on Facebook

 

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Statewide Call-In Days 6/27 and 6/30 : Current Budget is Irresponsible and Unacceptable

It is hard to imagine, but the PA House advanced a state budget in Harrisburg that is far worse for public schools than the budget Governor Corbett proposed earlier this year. Call Harrisburg this week to tell them this is unacceptable. 

Our friends at Education Voters of Pennsylvania are putting together a Statewide Call to Action on Friday, June 27th and Monday, June 30th. Please spread this info far and wide, and make sure to call your representatives.

As Ed Voters writes, "advocates must speak out loudly and with one voice in support of responsible funding for public schools this year. If we do not speak up now, public education will likely receive little more than scraps in the budget this year."

Please see the letter below for more info and full details on tomorrow and Monday's call-in days.

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Friends and Allies,

On Friday, June 27th, and Monday, June 30th, Education Voters will be holding the next "Call to Action for Public Education" days!

It is hard to imagine, but the PA House advanced a state budget in Harrisburg that is far worse for public schools than the budget Governor Corbett proposed earlier this year.

The PA House is calling to eliminate the $241 million increase in state funding for proposed Ready to Learn Block grants and replace this with a paltry $70 million increase in Basic Education Funding. Under the House budget, PA school districts would lose about 70% of the increases in state funding they were expecting to receive this year and that they were relying on to balance their budgets.

The House budget is irresponsible and unacceptable.  It does not call for a shale tax or a cigarette tax.  Instead, it relies on the sale of state liquor stores (which the Senate has so far not supported), gimmicky sources of one-time funding, and the suspension of selected tax credits to balance the budget.

Budget negotiations are just beginning. While the budget is still fluid and negotiations are taking place, advocates must speak out loudly and with one voice in support of responsible funding for public schools this year. If we do not speak up now, public education will likely receive little more than scraps in the budget this year.

As with previous Call to Action for Education days, we are asking for broad participation from all organizations and individuals across the Commonwealth.  It is incredibly important the legislators in Harrisburg see that people are paying attention.  Communities are using these call-in-days to help spread the word about what is happening to our schools, so please join us again! 

I have attached materials that you can share as-is or customize, including how to make a good call and key points about the how legislators can improve the proposed budget, so people are prepared to call in. If there is anything we can do to support your efforts, please let us know.

You can always check our website where we have information and materials.

WHEN:  Friday, June 27 AND Monday, June 30, 2014

WHAT:  Call to Action for Public Education – It’s time for a fair budget for PA’s students!

HOW TO PARTICIPATE:  Mark your calendar and plan to ask your own network to take action

Suggested communication schedule

Put the date on your calendar today

- Send a “Get Ready” email on Thursday, June 26 or Friday, June 27 with action materials

- Send a Take Action email on Monday morning and promote the day on social media. Twitter:  #educationpa and #pabudget

Thank you for your support of our public schools. Please contact me if I can help you with this in any way or if you have questions.

Susan Spicka

Sample “Get Ready” email

On Monday, June 30, the Caucus of Working Educators, in collaboration with Education Voters PA, will be participating in a statewide call in day, to call Harrisburg.

Join thousands of parents, students, teachers and community members from across the state to SPEAK UP in support of our public schools on Monday, June 30th.  

Under the proposed House budget, PA school districts would lose about 70% of the increases in state funding they were expecting to receive this year and that they were relying on to balance their budgets.

Budget negotiations are just beginning. While the budget is still fluid and negotiations are taking place, advocates must speak out loudly and with one voice in support of responsible funding for public schools this year. If we do not speak up now, public education will likely receive little more than scraps in the budget this year. We know that just 10 calls in one day to one legislator can make a difference in what a legislator pays attention to. 

Mark your calendar today for Monday, June 30th – and do 3 things in 10 minutes to make a difference! Click here for your legislators' phone numbers. Click here for tips on how to make a good phone call.

1.      Call your State Senator.

2.      Call your State Representative.

3.      Call Gov. Corbett's office at (717) 787-2500.  

Ask them to:

  • Support the adoption of a shale tax, cigarette tax and any reasonable measure to raise revenue and close tax loopholes.
  • Support an increase in the Basic Education Funding line that is equal to what was in the proposed Ready to Learn Block Grant.
  • Support and advocate for state funding for charter school reimbursement to be restored.
  • Support SB 1316/HB2138, the special education funding and accountability reform bill.  (Additional information about this bill can be found atwww.educationvoterspa.org)  

 Want to double your impact?  Ask a friend to make a call that day too!  

Please take 5-10 minutes on Monday, June 30th  to help ensure a bright future for Pennsylvania! 

Visit us on the web at EducationVotersPA.org where you can Sign Up for Updates

Follow us on Twitter at @EdVotersPA and #educationPA

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PFT Lobby Day in Harrisburg

 

Caucus members participated in the PFT Lobby Day in Harrisburg on June 24.  We had some good conversations with legislators from all over the state and also heard some great speeches from the Philadelphia delegation!

 

 

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Caucus Members Issue a Call to Action

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Working Educators members have written a call to action for Philadelphia teachers to "speak out and shed light on the injustices that are occurring in our schools every day".

Published on The Notebook's Blog, the piece calls on teachers to take action on our Philly Teachers Sound the Alarm Campaign. Check out the full text below, then go contribute your post to Philly Teachers Sound the Alarm. 

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How to Plan a School Protest

You may have seen the City Paper report about FSAS' breakfast protest. Below is a description of how that protest went from idea to reality, courtesy of Caucus Member and FSAS Building Rep Amy Roat.

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Why We Protested

In September, my principal and the Food Service manager asked the staff at our school to serve breakfast to the students in Advisory.  We had no staff to keep them safe before school, and there was a promise that we would get another Food Service employee if our breakfast attendance increased. It was a lot of hard work on the part of Advisors, and there were unintended consequences – a serious mouse and cockroach infestation.

Not only were we denied another employee after increasing our breakfast attendance 77%, but rumors abound that there will be a cut in staff in the cafeteria for next year.

How we Planned the Protest

Most importantly, teachers should develop relationships across the school – food service, school police, custodial staff and safety staff.  Spend some time chatting -- it is not difficult to find common ground.  We were all experiencing the ill-effects cutbacks of supplies and staff.  We all feel disrespected and know that 440 is totally disconnected from our reality.

When I heard that we had won a $3000 prize for improving our breakfast attendance, I congratulated our Food Service Manager and found out the rest of the story. For some reason, the district was not allowing us to keep the money, and people from 440 were showing up for a photo op. That got everyone talking at lunch time. 

By the next day we had a plan.  I emailed a description of what was going on and described our protest plans. More importantly, teachers at every lunch period talked it up and reminded each other to wear red. The combination of an email and face to face communication is most effective. It is common for me to receive texts during the day that say ”did you know…”  We are in the habit of communicating and taking action.

The day before the protest, two of us approached the food staff and told them how much we cared for and respected them.  We were upset about the situation and were planning a protest, but we would not tell them the details to protect them.  We contacted a reporter and offered him an exclusive if he guaranteed a story. 

The day of the protest, we gathered behind closed doors and discussed exactly what we would do. Then we walked in together. A teacher took the pictures and emailed them to the reporter.

A solid protest requires trust, knowledge, discussion, agreement, publicity and action. This one took about three days to plan.

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Making Art for Change at Girard Elementary

 Looking for ways to bring inspiring projects to your school? Check out this write up from caucus member Tom Hladczuk of Stephen Girard Elementary about a project that involved both art and civic engagement.

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The project started When I met Sarah Kodish-Eskind and Jackie Quinn, two artists who run the Art Cart, a mobile art display and selling space that they use to display and sell the work of local artists. I asked if they would like to work with a school and expand the community concept to working with children and getting their community more engaged with the school.  They had been thinking along similar lines, so we set about planning it.


In cooperation with Girard teacher Kristy Katz, we applied to Public Citizens United for Children and Youth for a PICASSO arts project grant to fund our idea. We wanted to expand our students' experiences at the school and show the community what they were capable of. The two artists who started Art Cart had this vision as well, independently, and had been doing it to empower local artists.  Kristy had the experience of working with the grant before, and doing an engaging art project through PCCY funding.  PArt of PCCY's mandate is to do advocacy as well.  So we planned it together.


We had never done this kind of project at my school before, and it was fantastic! The grant made art classes possible for the students. They designed their own personal symbol and used it to make their own pencil cases and posters. They told their story by working together to create, design, write, edit, problem-solve and sew.


With the budget crisis looming at our school, we decided to make the project a political one as well. We sent letters stamped with the designs you saw to the local elected officials, and we went on visits to City Council Offices with a parent and student in tow.

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The purpose the project was use art as a way to engage the community, give children a voice, and show what public schools can accomplish what they do best when not held back and forced to do rote learning and test prep for standardized tests of low-level skills.

If you are inspired by this project, you can support our students by buying a pencil case! They will be sold at Ultimo Coffee on Saturday, June 14th, at 15th and Mifflin Streets, from 10:00 AM-3:00 PM and on Saturday, June 21st, on Rittenhouse Square.

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The Value of Teacher Tenure

If one reads some of the education reformers' reactions to the Vergara decision effectively eliminating teacher tenure in California, one would think that tenure is a way of protecting evil, incompetent teachers from perpetrating malpractice on loads of innocent, unsuspecting students.

The truth, however, is that tenure does not guarantee teachers their jobs. It is just a way of affording teachers due process rights so they are not disciplined in an unfair or prejudicial manner. Principals and other administrators have a clearly defined and not-that-difficult process to discipline and even fire teachers if they care to use it.

Many experienced teachers will tell you that the protection of tenure is what enables them to advocate strongly for the rights of their students.

Most of us have more than one story about trying to get services of some kind for a student and running up against  institutional or administrative apathy, intransigence, or outright resistance. Knowing we are protected by tenure rules give us the freedom to fight for the rights of our students in the way they deserve.  If teachers were constantly afraid of being written up and/or fired with out due process, they might hesitate to go to bat for their students.

What happens when the school district lets it be known they do not want to spend any more money on Special Education services for students, but a teacher has a student he/she just knows has a reading disability?  Bugging the principal, psychologist, and office of special education services enough times to get that student tested might actually get a teacher fired if there were no tenure protections.

What about the teacher who calls and reports the abuse of a student by a family member? If the family were angry and powerful enough, that could be a problem for a teacher without tenure. 

What about test cheating whistle-blowers? In the Philadelphia cheating scandal, some who did not participate in cheating were targeted by cheating principals, but tenure protections prevented these honest teachers from being fired.   

In all these instances, tenure protects both students and teachers—not the bogeyman of the incompetent teacher.

The “tenure is bad” straw man argument is simply a way to allow school districts and principals to fire experienced teachers and make sure that the teaching force becomes a bunch of fearful worker bees who dare not have an opinion or advocate for the rights of their students.

 

Additional commentary:

 

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WE Run for Philly Schools

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Caucus member Luigi Borda is many things. He is a parent, social studies teacher, and PFT building representative at Masterman Elementary. He is an avid runner who has been very involved in local politics as a tireless advocate for our city's children. Luigi has combined these two interests to help make some very powerful statements for the need for full and fair funding for Philadelphia's students. 

Luigi started in 2011 by running 100 miles from Philadelphia to Harrisburg to bring the message of the support our students so badly need to our state representatives. He continued this at Masterman with the school wide Laps for Education event in 2012 and 2013. Luigi was joined by his fellow teachers, parents, students, and community members as he ran 100 laps around Masterman's city block.
Both events raised thousands of dollars to help save extra curricular activities that were cut from the budget. This year's Laps For Education takes place on June 12th, All are welcome to join in the run or you can donate at the Masterman Home & School Website.
After helping to found the Caucus of Working Educators this spring, WE members helped Luigi develop his idea for the WE Run Philly Schools initiative. We wanted to let our elected and appointed officials know that it is the hard work and dedication of students, parents, and teachers that keep our schools running in the face of terrible and chronic continued neglect.
In April, we demonstrated this by joining together to run laps around school district headquarters.We came back bigger and better in May, at last month's SRC meeting, pictured above. 
Our next event is WE Run For Philly Students. Philadelphia has a wonderful running community that supports so many great causes in our area. We'd like to mobilize and activate our city's runners to raise awareness and money for groups that help our city's children, at a time when they need it most.
We need more running events that benefit our students and we'd love your input on how to make that happen! What running groups should we partner up with? What worthy organizations should we raise money for? We'd love to hear your thoughts at our End of Year Happy Hour Celebration at Frankford Hall on Friday, June 13th!
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Guide to PFT Contract Proctections

With the end of the year right around the corner, and observations and personnel letters being filed, now is a good time to review:

What are the basic protections of my PFT Contract?

The PFT contract is a detailed and valuable document worth reading in its entirety—but at 200 pages, it can also be useful to have a summary of the most important points!

Below are some brief descriptions of certain protections provided by the contract. If your building does not follow these procedures, we encourage you to work with your PFT Building Rep and Regional Rep to address these issues.

You can also download this information as a printable PDF to distribute to your colleagues!

How much prep time am I guaranteed by my contract? (Article XVIII, Sect. B1)

  • Elementary Teachers receive 225 minutes of prep time per week, which equates to 1 preparation period/day.
  • Middle and High School Teachers (please speak to your individual building representative because each school will vary based on scheduling)
    • Advisors receive 360 minutes of prep time per week, which equates to 8 prep periods per week.
    • Non-Advisors receive 270 Minutes of prep time per week, which equates to 6 prep periods per week.
    • Secondary Teachers are also guaranteed a 30 minute duty-free lunch each day, which is separate from prep time. Elementary Teachers are guaranteed a 45 minute duty-free lunch.

 

What happens if my administration asks me to miss my prep?

  • Lost prep time must be documented in writing with the date and the reason. Notice is to be given prior to the missed prep but no later than the following day. Note: this excludes preps that teachers cover for each other directly.
  • You are to be repaid for any lost prep time after the first 4 prep periods lost per school year. Repayment in the form of actual time does not require your permission if granted within 30 days.
  • Prep time not repaid in the form of actual time within 30 days of the original lost prep is eligible for repayment. You have two options for repayment of missed preps after 30 days:
    • You can elect to have it repaid as personal days for the following school year. Seven prep periods equals one personal day.
    • You can elect to have it repaid in your last paycheck of the year at the current extracurricular activity rate of $39.87/hour.

 

Do I have the right to have someone with me in a meeting with my principal, parent or other non-PFT persons? (Article XIV Sect. 4,5,6)

Yes! You have the right to representation in any meeting.

  • Notice for meetings with administration (that could affect your rating or your file negatively) s) )hould be in writing and must state the reason for the meeting and that you are allowed to have representation from the PFT in the meeting.
  • You can request that ANY PFT member join you in meetings that take place with any non-school district employees (i.e. parents) present.

 

What can be placed in my personnel files? Am I allowed to see what is in my files? Who is allowed to place information in my file? (Article XIV, Sect. B)           

  • You have 2 files. You have one official personnel file kept at 440 for official district and PADOE documents. You also have a personnel file kept at your building for unofficial documents and memos.
  • The only people allowed to place anything in your files are:
    • Employees from District Human Resources
    • A ratings officer (with your permission), usually the school administrator charged with observing you in a professional capacity.
    • Anyone who is witness to events pertaining to any kind of disciplinary action at your school (again, with your permission, this will take place during a meeting with representation).
  • You have the right to review your personnel file kept at 440 every year. You can ask your PFT Building Representative for a file review request form at the end of the school year.
  • You also have the right to review your building level personnel file. You should be given the ability to check this file in the presence of your PFT Building Representative at the end of every school year. They will advise you on what can be destroyed and what must remain in your building level file.
  • Any information considered derogatory or that could cause you to be suspended or fired (such as a 204 formal discipline letter) cannot be placed in your personnel file at 440 without a formal meeting and your consent by signature.
  • You have the right to dispute or correct any information placed in an informal observation by a written letter and/or evidence to be attached to the observation. You are also allowed to attach evidence to any memos given to you.
  • Any unfavorable anecdotal records you receive can be removed from your personnel file after 18 months, as long you have not had any more unsatisfactory events in the intervening time.
  • After 5 years, the following items may be removed from your file and destroyed:  Letters of suspension or demotion, personnel transaction forms and state ratings forms.
    • You must apply to have this action performed.
    • You cannot have any additional incidents during the 5 year period you wish to have destroyed.

 

If you have any questions regarding these policies, please ask your PFT Building Representative or Regional Representative. For more resources like these, connect with the Caucus of Working Educators at www.workingeducators.org.

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Lessons from Muñoz-Marín

From the outside, the vote on whether to turn Luis Muñoz-Marín public school over to a charter operator seemed like a done deal. But when the call went out to Working Educators for spanish-speakers who could help call parents and gauge their support, I quickly learned that the opposite was true. Spending Wednesday evenings in the basement of the PFT offices, calling family after family, WE volunteers quickly saw that parents powerfully supported keeping the school public.

“Buenas tardes, me llamo Max y soy un profesor con el distrito escolar de filadelfia. Estoy con la coalición para mantenerse pública la escuela Muñoz-Marín, y queremos saber si podemos contar con su apoyo?” Can we count on your support? 

“Claro” was the most frequent comment I heard. Of course.

We spoke to block captains who had been mobilizing their neighbors, mothers who did not want to see their favorite teachers gone. “My daughter is in special ed”, one parent mentioned to me. “I don’t know what will happen to her under ASPIRA. All special ed parents should be concerned”.

Longtime Muñoz-Marín volunteer and retired teacher Vivian Rodriguez wrote for the WE blog about the community’s fight to keep their school public: confusion over the vote being pushed back, alienation of teachers who had to choose whether to stay at a school that might not exist next year, frustrating accusations about school leaders.

Despite the challenges, last Thursday the parents at Muñoz-Marín voted overwhelmingly to keep the school public.

If parents hadn’t courageously come out for their beliefs, would the community’s support for their public schools have been lost in history? Could this story have looked like the other charter takeovers we hear about every day, in which community opinion garners only a short quote at the end of an article filled with the voices of politicians and (so-called) education experts?

My experience volunteering as a WE member with the campaigns for Muñoz-Marín and Steel Elementary demonstrated the powerful voices of parents, communities, and school leaders in the battle for public education. These are the voices that have been marginalized and ignored in the corporate reform movement, but are increasingly gaining power in cities like Newark, Chicago, and now Philadelphia.

When families and communities are asked, they decisively want adequate funding for our public schools, not to turn them over to private companies.

We know that parents and communities are not usually asked for their opinions, though. From the outside, corporate reform will continue to look like a done deal, such as in the ongoing school ‘transformations’ at Blaine and Kelley. These schools make it clear that our work is just beginning.

However, the victories at Muñoz-Marín and Steel this month show that we can make sure our voices are heard, regardless of whether they are asked for. When a diverse coalition of parents, teachers, and community leaders come together despite the alienation and frustration, we can show that corporate school reform is far from a done deal.

Join WE this Friday, June 13th, to celebrate this year’s victories together -and plan for new ones!- at our End of Year Happy Hour at Frankford Hall.


WE volunteers call parents and families of Munoz-Marin students leading up to the vote.WE volunteers call Muñoz-Marín families ahead of the big vote.

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