What Equity Looks Like: Caucus Response to Action Plan 3.0

On Thursday, September 30th, SDP Superintendent William Hite announced that he will continue to continue to disrupt the education of thousands of Philadelphia students by implementing Action Plan 3.0.  

Superintendent Hite claims that the plan to “phase out” two schools and turn three more over to Renaissance Charter operators must be implemented in order to  “deliver on our vision of equity.”  Why does that vision include closing or causing upheaval in schools that are in struggling neighborhoods and have been denied adequate resources for years?

Here are a few ways that this new plan is anything but equitable, and examples of how things could be done differently:

  • Two years ago, the school communities of Steel and Munoz-Marin had the chance to vote on whether to accept outside charter operators. By contrast, this new plan was designed without any teacher, parent, or community input. Schools were only informed of their fate early Thursday morning.

  • When Steel and Munoz-Marin faced their vote about possible charter takeover, the current staff were given an opportunity to present their own plans for the school. Why are no district teachers being given the opportunity to speak for their own schools?

  • The three schools suggested for Renaissance charter takeover--Cooke, Huey, and Wister--are all in neighborhoods where the educational fabric has already been cut to pieces by encroaching charters. That they would also eventually be put up for charterization is not an accident.

  • The possibility of naming up to three turnaround schools means that all of the staff will automatically be removed from the school, and only 50% can return. By contrast, when a school applies for a “redesign,” they can keep all of their staff. Why does a “turnaround” require that students be separated from the teachers they trust?

Hite’s letter to teachers also claims that the SDP has “made progress obtaining the necessary resources to adequately serve our students and families.” Unfortunately, the biggest new resources are ones that push teachers towards more assessment, such as the “Driven by Data” handbooks that teachers at Central High School collected to resell so that they could raise funds for paper.

In fact, most educators can tell you that since 2013, there has been a consistent stripping of resources, both human and material.  Most school lack a full time nurse and school counselor.  Most schools lack safety personnel to supervise students before and after school, as well as in the halls during the school day. Most schools have one secretary and most principals struggle without an assistant principal to guide their schools. The district does not have the right to label schools as failing and ripe for overhaul in these conditions.

Philadelphia’s Caucus of Working Educators is already working to support students, teachers, and community members who wish to defend their schools from takeover or closure. Any educators who are looking for support can reach us at contact@workingeducators.org.


[Photo from WE Sign-Making Party for MLK D.A.R.E
(Day of Resistance, Action, and Education) Protest early this year]

PFT Leadership Fails to Endorse Teacher for City Council

On Tuesday, September 29th, the PFT leadership voted against the endorsement of public school teacher and PFT member, Kristin Combs, who is running for an at-large seat on city council as a Green Party candidate.  

Comb.Collings.Muhammad.jpgIn rejecting one of their own members, the PFT leadership failed to endorse the only teacher candidate running on a strong education and labor platform.Combs' platform includes fully funded public schools, local school control, charter school reform, an end to school closings, restorative justice, a living wage, paid sick leave, collective bargaining rights for all workers, fully funded pensions, an end to private outsourcing of public sector jobs, and an end to corporate welfare. The Caucus of Working Educators is outraged that such a strong teacher leader would not receive the endorsement of the current PFT leadership.

Rather than support a teacher whose campaign is dedicated to creating the schools Philadelphia’s children deserve, the PFT leadership instead voted to endorse an Independent with no labor support, as well as a Republican who pledges to maintain the SRC as-is.

The responsible thing  – both for its own members, as well as for the future of public education in Philadelphia – would have been for the PFT to endorse Combs’ candidacy.

The PFT leadership failed its members by their refusal to endorseCombs’ for city council.  As members of the PFT, the Caucus of Working Educators is organizing to enhance, not ignore, teacher leadership. We vehemently reject this decision and proudly support Kristin Combs for city council.


How to Arrange A Work-To-Rule Campaign: One School's Story

This past summer, the Caucus brought a proposal to the PFT executive leadership to run a city-wide work-to-rule campaign. The purpose of such a campaign would be to have educators work to the exact letter of their contract for a limited time only, in order to highlight the great lengths that we go to every day to hold our schools together. The PFT did not adopt this as a universal campaign, but did recommend it as a possible action schools could take this fall.

Two essential pieces are educating families in advance of the action and running the campaign for a limited time only. The purpose is to reveal to the public just how many gaps educators fill, not to use that extra work as a bargaining chip. 

Below is the story of how Mifflin Elementary arranged their Work To Rule Campaign. Reported by Caucus Member Pamela Roy.

I am on the building committee at Mifflin, and last week we voted to do a work to rule action October 5th-9th. The first step was for the building committee members to reach out to all other members of the building to explain what it means and why we're doing it, to get them on board. A coworker and I worked on a letter to parents explaining the same, which will go home at the end of this week.

Link to Letter Mifflin sent out (with detailed description of their actions)

Link to PFT template letter (with handy "how you can help" section for parents to contact SDP and the SRC)

During the week, we plan to support our colleagues in strictly following the contract. This means we are in at 8:20 and out at 3:09. No extra help offered to students on our lunch break, or contacting parents after school hours. No clubs will be held. No helping out with monitoring the schoolyard or cafeteria before 8:20 or dismissal procedures after 3:09.

We are also doing an extra action per day. Monday we are wearing PFT pins (such as the ones that say "Respect" or "Every child deserves a school nurse everyday"). On Tuesday we are writing and sending emails to elected officials to lobby for full, fair funding. Wednesday, we will do the same via phone. Thursday is PFT red shirt day, and on Friday, we will gather after school for happy hour off campus to debrief and talk about what went well, and what didn't.

The purpose of the action is for our parents and community members to understand how much extra work and effort we put in above and beyond what we are contractually required to do. Remember, parents are our allies, and it is important for them to help them see the current state of our schools due to current budgetary conditions.

If you are interested in a similar action at your school, and would like additional information about how we organized ours, feel free to contact me at pamelalroy@gmail.com with questions. 


Vote Philly! Public Schools Need Youth and Families to Vote! - Register to Vote Online Now!

Registering Students & Parents to VoteA strong turnout of Philly youth and families on Election Day can have a great impact on our city and the state, especially during midterm and primary elections when so few people vote. On November 3rd, we will cast ballots for Mayor, City Council, and the important Pennsylvania Supreme Court seats that could decide the balance of the court and the future of public education in Pennsylvania.

1. Register High School Seniors to Vote: CLICK HERE!Pennsylvanians can now register online!!!

If students will be 18 by November 3rd, get them to register now. They can do it on a smart phones! The deadline to register to vote is always 30 days before the election (October 5th, 2015).

If you prefer to use paper registration forms, contact tquinn6935@gmail.com with the number of forms you need for your students. We will send the forms to you via school district pony mail.


2. Research the ballot with your students.

Start with these nonpartisan resources:

-Committee of Seventy

-Philadelphia City Commissioners


Then research media coverage and endorsements from a range of organizations. 

3. Have Students Find Their Polling Places.

If a student knows they cannot make it to their polling place, they must apply for an absentee ballot before Election Day. This is especially important for students that go to college in the fall.

4. Election Day!

Remind students to get to the polls and to go as a family!

First-time voters must show a photo ID at the polling place.



Building Rep's Corner: How can I overcome apathy in my building?

Welcome to the Building Rep's Corner, an advice column for union leaders written by experienced PFT building representatives. If you have a question you'd like to ask, or would like to contribute a column, please email us at contact@workingeducators.org!

Dear Building Rep’s Corner: With all the other challenges in the school day, I have trouble motivating members in my building to get involved with union issues or events as well. What can I do?
Apathetic in Philly
~ ~ ~
Patrick Sommer, Autistic Support Teacher and Building Rep, Greenfield Elementary

Dear Apathetic in Philly,

I do not know how much of an expert I am, but I will share my experiences with you. I'm entering in my 21st year of teaching and have witnessed staff interactions towards the building rep each year. I try to participate in as many pertinent activities as I can and encourage colleagues to do the same.

You will, most likely, face a lot of apathy. This is our biggest problem as a union. HOW DO WE GET PEOPLE TO UNDERSTAND THAT WE ARE THE UNION?!  You will probably hear a lot of complaints, i.e.; "Why doesn't the union do this?  Why doesn't the union do that?  I wish that we could just..."  

Some people are so fed up that they do not even want to hear any details of what is going on or what they can do.  Some people say that they just wanted to vent, when they complain and I try to offer possible solutions or tactics that could lead to a solution down the line. Many feel powerless.

I tell people that I recognize that everyone can not partake in everything, but I find it hard to believe when people have an excuse at every turn to participate.  It's not that hard to get a good number of colleagues to do informational picketing before school starts (especially if there's coffee and donuts), but, as you've seen, it's hard to get people to canvass, phone bank, etc.

I try to share as much information as I can with our colleagues through email and face to face connections. I would say that talking to a colleague one to one, or even in a small group, such as those with the same lunch/prep time works better than the mass emails, but the emails are still important, especially for those that you've already been able to talk to one on one.  

One of the ways I was immediately able to build face to face connections with my colleagues was through informational picketing on Friday mornings before school in May and June 2013 and 2014.  I started out as the building rep in May 2013. This just happened to coincide with a informational picketing campaign initiated by the PFT in early around the same time. I asked colleagues at Greenfield to join me in conducting informational picketing EVERY Friday through the rest of the school year. Wendy Coleman did take note of Greenfield's extra informational picketing efforts from the onset.  Jerry Jordan even stopped by once in 2014 and 2015 (I'm sure Greenfield's proximity to the PFT office played a part in this, but, nonetheless, it was good for staff morale). In addition, some students and parents participated. 

It's still hard.  People are frustrated and scared.  With all positions being site selected and leveling being site selected (as principals simply need to write a "compelling reason"), people are afraid to be removed from their current position and forced to interview for a job for a position they were already interviewed for years ago.  Some people state that what they do doesn't matter and that the powers that be are going to do whatever they want to do anyway.  There are other reasons too, of course.  If someone is willing to talk things through with someone who is active, then there is a chance to change that person's perspective.


Read more

Two Perspectives on Fighting Structural Racism

The following pieces are two perspectives and recent narratives on the ways that race and racial justice have informed the work of the Caucus of Working Educators for the last year.  

Caucus of Working Educators Centralizes Race in our Social Justice Analysis

Ismael Jimenez (Caucus of Working Educators, Kensington CAPA)

This past spring, Caucus Member and UPenn Ph.D. Candidate Rhiannon Maton facilitated an Inquiry to Action (ItAG) group to think about the connection between structural racism and the work of the Caucus of Working Educators (WE). The ItAG was run as a research study for Rhiannon’s doctoral dissertation.

The ItAG was made up of several members of WE, including myself, who came together to participate in dialogue surrounding race within the caucus. We thought it was important to think about race because of how much race frames the conversation about education consciously and unconsciously. After meeting for an intensive seven sessions, our group developed actions to be utilized within the Caucus of Working Educators and the larger education community in Philadelphia.

One of the actions that our group developed was a professional development session for other teachers and educator allies. We developed and facilitated over five professional development sessions that got people thinking more deeply about the effects of structural racism on education. Along with other members of our ItAG group, I participated in facilitating sessions at Central High School's citywide professional development day, the Teacher Lead Philly Summer Institute, as well as within my own school with my fellow staff-members during the beginning of the school year. I also plan to facilitate sessions surrounding structural racism at as many education gatherings as possible in the upcoming year.

Although race is an extremely difficult subject to dialogue about with others, I find that dialogue is a fruitful and an effective organizing tool.  to utilize in bringing others Our conversations brought people together into the work of building a network of racially conscious educators who are dedicated to speaking honestly about the current racial reality that taints our understanding of ourselves and each other.

What is Structural Racism?

According to Lawrence and Keleher (2004), Structural Racism is the normalization and legitimization of an array of entrenched dynamics – historical, cultural, institutional and interpersonal – that advantage whites while producing cumulative and chronic adverse outcomes for people of color which reinforce existent racially developed societal structures. It identifies dimensions of our history and culture that have allowed privileges associated with “whiteness” and disadvantages associated with “color” to endure and adapt over time. This definition reflects the distribution of material and symbolic advantage and disadvantage along racial lines while acknowledging the realignment of socio-political institutions developed throughout time to maintain continuity of racialized  power systems.

What brought us together to do this work?

Our inquiry group was motivated to think about the effect of structural racism on education, our schools, and our organizing practice because of the continued deficits of a truly informed racial analysis being purposefully applied to understanding issues related to teaching and learning.Over the last 30 years, there has been a concerted effort in America to roll back gains achieved during the Civil Rights Movement like the ending of the enforcement clause of the Voting Rights Act and desegregation requirements within the School District of Philadelphia. Our society can no longer simply assume that racial progress is a natural occurrence without it necessitating purposeful struggle.

Schools in Philadelphia represent a microcosm of the nation’s failure overall orientation toward failing to confront structural racism in our nation. This failure to confront structural racism is demonstrated by the increase of racially isolated schools and the creation of new learning networks that reinforce structures of racism.  With this knowledge at the forefront of constructing a viable analysis in order to build a sustainable collective movement, Any sustainable movement to transform education in Philadelphia a truly transformative program needs to be centered on race.

The Caucus of Working Educators has already began the work of providing a space to discuss and develop actions that take on surrounding structural racism. We have done this by:

  • We have done this first by engaging in the ItAG group to think about the connections between structural racism and our organization.
  • We have done this by creating a racial justice committee involving community members, parents, college professors, and teachers in Philadelphia.
  • SAnd we have done this by seeking out input from various individuals and organizations that already perform work surrounding structural racism. I am no way naive about the difficulty of changing patterns that have existed and reinforce structural racism, but the need to face our collective demon is obvious and evident.

I believe that in order to systematically create the conditions for transformation in our society, it is necessary to address the root causes of racism. This means recognizing those things that continue to restrict real progress in our society and those things which inspired past historical collective action and have created lasting change in our society. I contend that race exists at the intersection of all social issues affecting the American political economy, including issues ranging from class to gender. My contention is derived from an historical analysis of past and present social movements dedicated to addressing social justice concerns.

The strategy of addressing surface problems from neoliberal deform to resisting school closings simply continues to be an exercise of futility due to the issue of race as a driving motivation for the ability of our society to exploit people of color being neglected. This neglect in recognizing race as central to the problems in education creates the space for the majority of Americans to be shielded from the treatment of marginalization our children face.

Racism does not simply function as individual manifestations of overt bigoted diatribes, but as a structural force that informs our collective perceptions of each other, while preventing substantive modification to the socio-economic status quo tied to race. Therefore, the need to address structural racism through many angles is necessary for movement toward a more racially equitable society.

So, what can we do about it?

After meeting for an intensive seven sessions, our group developed actions to be utilized within the Caucus of Working Educators and the larger education community in Philadelphia.

One of the actions that our group developed was a professional development session for other teachers and educator allies. We developed and facilitated over five professional development sessions that got people thinking more deeply about the effects of structural racism on education. Along with other members of our ItAG group, I participated in facilitating sessions at Central High School's citywide professional development day, the Teacher Lead Philly Summer Institute, as well as within my own school with my fellow staff-members during the beginning of the school year. I also plan to facilitate sessions surrounding structural racism at as many education gatherings as possible in the upcoming year.



Making Racial Justice a Launching Point

Shira Cohen (Caucus of Working Educators Supporting Member, Wissahickon Charter School)

As the 2015-2016 school year begins, students, families and educators feel the crisis in Philadelphia’s public education system acutely  This September, the district, whose numbers surpass 130,000 students, will open without full staffs and resource bases. In this era of continued neighborhood racialized and economic segregation, a majority of students attending Philadelphia’s schools are young people of color whose educational opportunities continue to experience the de-funding of public education; divestment against sustained growth; school closures; and systematic attacks against students, families, and teachers.  

Simultaneously across the nation, social and racial justice leaders have continued to amplify stories of police abuse against people of color, the New Jim Crow of mass incarceration, and constructed segregation around access to space and systems.  #BlackLivesMatter, founded by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi, has uplifted the movement to dismantle the systems that sustain white supremacy and institutional racism in the public and private sectors of American life.  In order to effectively engage with educational justice movements in our own community, we must move to centralize discussions and actions around understanding and dismantling racism at individual and structural levels in our work.

For the last several months, conversations around racial justice have driven the work of the Caucus of Working Educators.  We have attended marches, rallies, and meetings as individuals and as organizations in solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter and the Philadelphia Coalition for Racial and Economic Justice.  Nine of our members participated in a research study led by Rhiannon Maton examining the significance of racial justice for our organizing work in the Caucus. An inquiry to action group oriented around social justice unionism met in May with a focus on the racial demographics of caucus membership, meetings and work.  Caucus members have led workshops on dismantling racism at personal, school-based, and organizational levels.  A book series this past summer included twelve texts that focused specifically on the impacts and realities of structural racism, movements to dismantle it, and radical activist work in our current times in education systems and additional social institutions.  In these varied spaces, we dissect how structural racism informs organizing practices; how building leadership of people of color must be central to the work of organizing that is rooted in communities of color; and how individuals must do their own personal work of targeting their own racism that can uphold the institutional structures at play.  

Now, where are we going with this work?  

On August 23, leaders in Caucus and the Teacher Action Group gathered for a retreat to continue the organizing and movement building work of these organizations’ visions.  Throughout the day, we thought and moved around the eight point plan developed by early founders of TAG National; brainstormed forms of leadership and action at varying levels of the movement for educational justice; read and discussed the introduction to What’s Race Got to Do with It, (ed. Bree Picower and Edwin Mayorga); and developed plans for continuing to galvanize the Opt-Outmovement, build the base of support for our movement, and create spaces for work around radical pedagogy. As an organization, the Caucus is striving to, centering race and racial justice in our organizing, and in our members’ personal and professional lives. We are striving to continue to grow joy and empowerment in our schools and classrooms.  

This work comes to a head this year as we begin to think about what’s coming for a larger movement, the specific organizations to which we ally ourselves and work, and our own ongoing work as individuals.  In order for our movement to intersect fully with a national push for racial justice, our personal understandings of privilege, power, and race must continue to evolve.  This work occurs on our own, in small group conversations, larger mobilization spaces, and in meetings to plan for campaigns and actions. This work also takes place, in our critical analysis of the public education system where we breathe, live, teach, and learn.   



Lawrence, K., & Keleher, T. (2004, October 20). Chronic Disparity: Strong and Pervasive Evidence of Racial Inequalities/POVERTY OUTCOMES/Structural Racism. Lecture presented at Race and Public Policy Conference in Race Forward: The Center for Racial Justice Innovation., Berkeley.


SRC Comments: Diane Payne

From the SRC Meeting on Thursday, September 17th, 2015:

I am speaking today on SRC resolutions 2, 3 and 7 pertaining to adding a facilities location for Belmont Elementary Charter School, Boys Latin Charter School and Tacony Academy Charter School.  These schools will now operate in two locations instead of one. 

Question 1: Are seats being added to these schools?  If so, how is this possible as a resolution?

Question 2: If you wish to review a charter school’s application, where and/or how can you find this information online?  I couldn’t locate their approved applications on the SDP website or on the individual school’s website. 

Lastly a statement about 2 things Dr. Hite said in his September 15th Notebook interview about the new school year:

On the question of teachers trusting Dr. Hite and the last SRC meeting, Dr. Hite mentioned that he heard from retired teachers at the last SRC meeting following that with “let’s be clear, I meet with teachers and I hear from teachers.” 

Regarding that statement, it was not just retirees who spoke at that meeting.  Also, implied in that statement is that what you hear from teachers differs from what you hear from “retirees.”  Since data is such a strong and important presence in our district, I would suggest that before making implications or statements about what teachers feel, think or need, you do an independent survey that protects their autonomy so they can speak freely.  I too speak with teachers in various ways and find the exact opposite to be true.  The retirees who speak do in fact represent the views of those working in the classrooms. 

When questioned on privatization, I take issue with the comment that it is silly to think the school district’s plans are to privatize.  I find the use of the word silly offensive to the speakers who bring genuine care and concern to these meetings. 

In addition to being offensive, it is a distortion of what is happening on the ground.  This district has been closing, turning around, transforming, out-sourcing, renaissancing and laying off for years now, both before you got here and also very much under your leadership.  All of these actions are actions that support the privatization of our public schools.  As a Broad graduate, would you not agree that it is also the mission of the very institution that you attended?  It is not silly, it is real.  

Diane Payne is a retired School District of Philadelphia teacher. 


Working Educators Endorse Kristin Combs, Philly Teacher, for City Council

[Update: Meet Kristin and learn more about her platform and campaign strategy at a House Party Meet & Greet in Germantown on Saturday, Oct. 3 (6-7:30pm) hosted by WE member Kelley CollingsClick here for more info & to RSVP]

IMG_20150919_125512.jpgThe Caucus of Working Educators has endorsed Kristin Combs, Green Party candidate, for Philadelphia City Council At-Large. 

An active member of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, and the PFT's Caucus of Working Educators, Kristin is a dedicated teacher at Penn Treaty High School.

"Working alongside Ms. Combs in a school that had a unique set of challenges, I watched how she committed to her students on both academic and personal levels. There really wasn't anything she was unwilling to do to ensure that students had all of the opportunities they needed to reach their fullest potential. Adding that she is an active participant in a variety of educator and community groups demonstrates her commitment to doing all that she can do to make the world a better place for under served populations," said Regina Hastings, a colleague of Kristin's at Penn Treaty.

Kristin motivation for running is centered in having experienced the worst of how are students have been neglected, having previously taught at Vaux High School, before it was closed by the SRC along with 23 other schools in 2013.

She has vowed to take a teacher's salary if elected and donate the rest of her salary to organizations committed to helping our public school students.


Kristin's advocacy for her students and their families has also been apparent in her campaign being involved in many actions for raising the minimum wage and unionizing workers.

"Green Party candidate Kristin Combs is the only candidate running for City Council who has pledged to take a worker's wage and immediately introduce binding legislation for a $15 minimum wage in Philadelphia. Unchallenged one-party rule has produced the poorest large city in America. From Seattle to Philly, we need independent working class politicians willing to take on big business and Harrisburg," said Kate Goodman, lead organizer for 15 Now Philadelphia.

Another key piece of Kristin's platform is spreading awareness and strongly defending parents' right to opt out of the harm of standardized testing she has seen first hand. Kristin is leading by example and teaching everyone about the kind of well rounded education that all of our students need and deserve.

"As an educator, Kristin Combs knows standardized test scores are not a true measure of a student's intellectual ability. An advocate for engaging, challenging, student-centered teaching Kristin forged a close working relationship with Opt Out Philly over the past year. I've been impressed by Kristin's dedication to ensuring parents are aware of their legal rights to opt their children out of standardized tests. Because of Kristin's activism and her commitment to creative, innovative approaches to learning, I am proud to support her run for City Council." said Alison McDowell from the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools.


In the November election, Philadelphia voters can choose five candidates for City Council At-Large. Five candidates will be elected from the Democratic Party. In addition, the two highest vote-getters from all other minority political parties will also be elected and take their place on City Council. Traditionally, that has always been two Republicans.

Instead of using all five votes for Democrats (who are virtually certain to be elected), Kristin is asking for one of your five votes on November 4th. The goal is for one of these minority party seats to instead go to the Green Party and help build a much needed third party movement in our city. 

Working Educators has already endorsed two strong education advocates for City Council At-Large in Derek Green and Helen Gym. We hope you will support a third very worthy advocate for us all by voting for and helping to elect teacher and PFT member Kristin Combs for City Council At-Large!

Connect with the Combs 4 City Council Campaign:


Opt Out Philly to take part in National Parent Strike on Sept. 17

Opt Out Philly will be a part of the National Parent’s Strike. It’s not just a day it’s a national movement for parents to take back public education one test score at a time!


On Thursday, September 17, Opt Out Philly is participating in the National Parents Strike by asking parents, teachers and community members to do the following:

  • Wear Red
  • Submit your Refusal letters to your child’s school
  • Change your profile pic to that of your children or an Opt Out image
  • Use the following hashtags when you Tweet or share on social media: #optoutphilly #phillyparentstrike #welovephillyteachers #weloveourteachers #weloveourchildren and #nationalparentstrike

A press conference will be held in front of the School District of Philadelphia at 440 North Broad Street between 4:45 pm and 5:30 pm.

Last year, parents opted out at nearly twenty schools in the Philadelphia School District, in suburban districts like Quakertown, Lower Merion, Abington, and Lower Moreland, and in several of the state’s cyber charter schools.

"There is a strong correlation between standardized test scores and household income. It is simply unethical for Pennsylvania to spend $58.3 million annually on high-stakes tests that punish students living in poverty, English Language Learners, and special needs students. We want joy and curiosity, not compliance and discipline." Alison McDowell, parent of a Philadelphia School District 8th grader.

Parents are especially alarmed by how these tests affect English Language Learners and children with IEPs. Further, parents are heeding the warning of educators and researchers that the obsession with standardized testing is simply being used to label kids, teachers, and schools as failures.

“I am opposed to these tests being used simply to sort and separate students, rather than help them learn,” said Robin Roberts, School District of Philadelphia parent. “My child is more than a score.”

Parent leader Tonya Bah who has children at Wagner Middle School and Widener Memorial School says, “We, as parents and students, deserve to know our rights. We are here to break the code of silence surrounding standardized testing in Philadelphia. Every parent has a right to opt their child out of the test. Every student has a right to refuse the test.”


For more information, please visit the Opt Out Philly Blog, Facebook, or call 267-283-8273 (Tamara Anderson).


Defend Public Education During Back-to-School Night

At back-to-school night this year, we need to remind our city we are still fighting for fully funded schools. This letter from a Central High School teacher has tips for how to host a "What's NOT Back to School" Night at your school:


[Photo from Central's 'What's NOT Back to School' Action last year.]

Dear fellow PFT & WE Caucus members,

As we begin yet another year of less than adequate funding for Philadelphia’s school children, it becomes imperative that we continue to tell the narrative. Class sizes are still too large, schools still lack fundamental staff such as NTAs, counselors, and nurses (now add substitute teachers into the mix), and basic supplies such as copy paper and textbooks are still lacking. 

At the same time, the Caucus is now embarking upon its listening campaign for the internal PFT elections. The one platform issue I would like to see included is that we become a PRO-ACTIVE union, not a RE-ACTIVE one. We shouldn’t simply wait for one slight after the other being to be lobbed at us by corporate reformers, Harrisburg and the SRC – only to reactively challenge them in court. We need to get in front of the train wreck and take the fight TO THEM.

It is in that spirit that we at Central High School have decided to launch our second annual “What’s NOT Back-to-School” rally this year. Central staff will be lining the sidewalk prior to Back-to-School night this Thursday evening, informing parents of these attacks on public education. 

The highlight of our rally will be a “Professional Development Textbook Resale Fundraiser” that we hope will raise over $1000 in order to buy much needed supplies for our school. Teachers are encouraged to donate their District-purchased Driven By Data books from this year (retail value $36.00) and Charlotte Danielson’s Enhancing Professional Practice (retail value $29.95) for resale through various online textbook buyback programs (click here). How DARE the district pay over $60 per teacher on corporate reform textbook garbage while our schools go without basic supplies.

When austerity has become the new norm, it’s vital to show that we’re still fighting for fully funded schools. I hope that you feel emboldened and choose to follow Central’s example by hosting your own Back-to-School rally and PD Textbook Resale Fundraiser. Feel free to use the flyers and press releases I have come up with. They are all in .doc format so that they can be easily adapted to suit your school’s needs.

In solidarity,

George Bezanis
WE Caucus member
PFT Building Representative
Central High School

P.S. Here are all the docs you need to get started:

What's NOT Back to School Night- Flyer for Parents: PDF / google docs

What's NOT Back to School Night- Press Release: PDF / google docs

What's NOT Back to School Night- Poster Ideas & Mailbox Inserts: PDF / google docs