"Ladies and Gentlemen of the SRC"

On Thursday, February 19th, History Teacher George Bezanis accepted an award for his work with the Central High School debate team.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the SRC,

I appeared in front of you earlier in this meeting as a teacher, Debate Coach and Site Organizer for the entire A.S.A.P. League matches at Central High School. I posed for a photograph and accepted your award.

I am also a proud member of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and the PFT’s Caucus of Working Educators, a public school parent, and a locally elected Democratic committee person in the 63rd Ward. These many hats shouldn’t come as a surprise though. We all wear them…

Whether we have never spent a day as a public educator but, instead, run charities for millionaires in the Wyncote Foundation and are appointed by a Republican governor who never dared step foot in a Philadelphia school…

Whether we say we advocate for children, but in the meantime collect a paycheck from Comcast while yelling at students that they “Must attend failing schools!”

Whether we claim to be an objective member of an unelected school board, but must recuse ourselves from every other vote because our husband’s law firm has ties to charter schools throughout the district…

Whether we dream of being mayor like our father, and just see this as another political stepping stone…

Whether we’re the only person on this mockery of a democratic institution who has actually worked in a classroom and, as a result, voted NO on every charter authorization vote. Thank you, Marge!

And finally, whether you are yet another Eli Broad Academy superintendent seeking to “narrow the achievement gap” by shutting down schools. A superintendent who takes a 10% pay cut but then secretly reinstates it one year later.

Do you know how much my pay cut was last year? I didn’t get paid for running the Debate program, but continued to do so (free of charge) because I had to look my students in the eyes – not you. As we approach yet another September without a contract, my total lost step and degree wages are now approaching $15,000.

Meanwhile, this body votes in new charters it can’t afford, continues to hire 6-figure employees, extend contracts to Teach For America, and refuses to lobby for PILOT payments, abatement reform, or “interest rate swap” renegotiation.

Instead, you say that the PFT needs to give back. Don’t pretend to thank teachers like myself by giving them awards at the beginning of an SRC meeting, and then secretly voting to take away my contract.

If you really want to thank teachers like me, forget the cheap photo-op and

Get back to the negotiating table!

Give us a fair contract! 

Then, hopefully, you can 

Vote to dissolve this sham of a school board!


Oppose Charter Expansion Tomorrow: What would you buy our schools with $273 mil?


As Philadelphia educators, parents, and community members, we know the kind of schools every student in the city deserves.

Tomorrow the School Reform Commission will vote on the 39 applications for new Charter Schools. Working Educators will be there throughout the meeting to say "We Can't Afford More Charter Schools".

We are not alone. At the meeting tomorrow we will be joining allies from PCAPS, Action United, Parents United for Public Education, Youth United for Change, and more.

Furthermore, every Mayoral candidate has signed on to a letter saying "No New Charters" (except Anthony Williams, of course), as well as City Council President Darrel Clarke, Councilman Wilson Goode Jr., many City Council candidates, and other community organizations. 

We know what our schools need. In letter after letter written to the SRC opposing these new charters, WE members expressed the beautiful communities that exist in our public schools, despite an already dire financial situation. As one educator remarks:

For me, the Richmond School is an upbeat example of what a neighborhood school can be. It has strong roots in the community. It serves as common ground for students and staff of different racial groups, ethnic groups and cultural traditions, a building where we can come together in a calm and nurturing place. Generations of families have been welcome here. The stable, experienced staff is lively, vibrant, capable. Classrooms are focused on learning. I go every morning to the Richmond School because it makes me feel good about my city and hopeful about American democracy and American opportunity.

Please join us tomorrow to show the city of Philadelphia that educators, parents, and community members stand together in support of the public schools our students deserve. Sign up here and invite your friends on facebook

We will be distributing these flyers to fill out and make sure everyone knows that teachers and families are the real experts. Grab some from a WE member tomorrow, or print your own!




Some notes for attending tomorrow:

  • The full meeting will be long (probably 4 hours!), but it's essential we stay through to the vote at the end so the SRC knows educators are organized and watching. It's ok if you get there a little late.
  • Last SRC meeting, they didn't allow signs into the building at all. If you make a poster, put it on paper that you can fold up and fit in your bag.
  • WE is a member-driven union, which means our ideas come from the membership. The above posters were made by two members. What's your idea for how to make this 4 hour meeting fun and powerful? Want to use your PD to host a poster-making party? Bring balloons? Choreograph a "no new charters" dance? Do it!

For more information on the charter threat, and community-led alternatives, check out this informational flyer from PCAPS.


Push back against Charter Schools- Write a letter TONIGHT!



“No child should be harmed so another child can be helped.”

This is what Donna Cooper, executive director of PCCY, wrote earlier this week about the 39 Charter School applications which the SRC will be voting on this Wednesday, February 18th at 3:30pm.

The pressure is growing for the SRC to vote down these charter school applications and support public, neighborhood schools. As Philadelphia educators, parents, and community members, we can make it clear that Philadelphia supports strengthening its public schools- rather than putting scarce resources into a new round of financially and pedagogically questionable charters. 

If you haven't written a letter yet to the SRC opposing one of the charter schools threatening your school or neighborhood, the deadline to submit letters is tomorrow at noon. Take a look at our step-by-step instructions (including analysis and criticism provided by the district's own Charter School Office), and then make sure to send your letter to src@philasd.org and contact@workingeducators.org so we can keep track of how many letters were sent.

Then, please spread this action in any education and parent networks you have. We've been hearing that parent email lists around the city are blowing up with parents opposes to these new charters- let's make sure they know that we're taking action!

Want some inspiration? The letters that have already been written and submitted show a deep love for the students and communities that make our public schools so special. Take a look, and then write your own today!

Screenshot_2015-02-15_at_6.38.11_PM.png ~ ~




~ ~



How to Protect your School and Neighborhood from Charter Takeover


On Monday, the School District announced that it would be voting on the 39 charter applications next Wednesday, 2/18. The slots to speak at that meeting have already filled up, but the district is still accepting public comment until noon on Monday 2/16.

We think that the best chance we have to influence the outcome of the charter vote is to provide specific, detailed objections to charters that are threatening the zip codes where we live and work.

Doubtful? Check out the charter application analysis reports -- the district did NOT play nice in their critiques of the holes in the applications. If you don't feel like combing through the reports one by one, take this quiz to see some of the harsh words the evaluators had for different proposals.

Reading the reports, it's also clear that the board played close attention to how much support was given for individual schools -- and also whether that support was authentic or cookie-cutter. (Independence Charter got a note in their report that they sent 100 letters... but that they were a form letter.)

We're looking to send at least 500 individualized letters to the SRC by next Monday.

Charter Letter Instruction Kit

To participate, do two things:

1. Download the instructions and follow them.

2. Collect the letters and e-mail them to both SRC@philasd.org and contact@workingeducators.org. No number is too small (or too large)! If you can get your whole school on board by calling a letter-writing session before report card conferences on Thursday, AWESOME. If you are a parent and you can get two neighbors to write, great. If there's no school targeting your zip codes, go one zip code over or write about a neighborhood that matters to you.

Remember, this is NOT a campaign against all charter applications together -- we already published that letter. Instead, we are asking you to take a look at which school(s) are near your home and work, explore what critiques were made of their applications by the district, and then write the educated, thoughtful commentary that the district and potentially the charter appeal board in Harrisburg need to hear.


Announcing our Opt Out Toolkit


Solidarity from Chicago: check out the resolution above that the Chicago Teachers Union passed in support of teachers at Feltonville School of Arts and Sciences! The opt out movement has strength.

What information can you send on to families who haven't been educated about their opt out rights yet? With parent-teacher conferences just around the corner, check out our brand-new...

Opt Out Organizing Toolkit

Tool Kit Includes:

  • Opt out flyers
  • Informational flyers about opt out
  • Sample press release
  • Press contact list
  • Sample PSSA & Keystone problems for Test-Ins

Remember -- all of these tools are legal, and schools are required by law to provide their families with information on how to opt out.


Philly Teachers, Professors, Parents and Community Urge SRC to "Stop the 40 Charters"

Want to help in the work to "Stop the 40 Charters"? Email membership@workingeducators.org to join our Organizing Committee!


January 29, 2015 

Commissioner William J. Green, Chair

Commissioner Feather Houstoun

Commissioner Farah Jimenez

Commissioner Marjorie Neff

Commissioner Sylvia Simms

Philadelphia School Reform Commission

440 North Broad Street

Suite 101

Philadelphia, PA 191230


Re: Charter School Applications


Dear Commissioners Green, Houstoun, Jimenez, Neff, and Simms, 

We are a group of Philadelphia educators, community members and parents who would like to testify about the 40 applications for new charter schools that your body is reviewing. We operate on the premise that the goal is for all public schools to provide an excellent, equitable and holistic educational environment for all children. Thus, we implore you not to approve any more charter schools to open in our city at this time.

Looking at finances alone, opening more charters is not a sensible option for our already cash-starved district. As former School Reform Commissioner Joseph Dworetzky has noted in his recent post in The Notebook, the district loses $5,500 per student when they transfer to a charter, and $10,000 per student when they transfer from a parochial or independent school, for an average loss of $7,000 per student. According to Dworetzky, rather than going towards supporting our schools, taxpayer dollars go towards mitigating this loss. In an era where we are already operating on a severe budget deficit, we cannot risk the loss of any more money or resources for our students and teachers.

Academically, existing data about the benefits to a student attending a charter school versus a traditional public school are inconclusive, as are data about student transfer or dropout rate from charter schools, according to a recent report by Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY). Looking at the organizations that have applied to open charter schools in Philadelphia, PCCY notes that the charter schools that these organizations already operate do not reflect the demographic of traditional public schools in the district; there are fewer minority, low-income and English Language Learning (ELL) students on their rosters. Even given this statistic, according to the PCCY report, 48% of applicants’ schools report that fewer than half of the students at the schools they currently operate are on grade level for reading and math. Further, a recent Stanford report found that in reading, as compared to their counterparts in traditional public schools (TPS), 56% of students in charter schools nationally showed no significant difference in academic growth between 2010 and 2011, and while 25% did significantly better, 19% did significantly worse. In math, 40% showed no difference as compared to their TPS counterparts in their scores, while 29% did significantly better and 31% did significantly worse. 

Philadelphia is our nation’s poorest big city; 84% of our students qualify as low-income. Because the data are so inconclusive, it seems that a problematic ideology of experimentation undergirds the district’s willingness to consider increasing the number of charter schools in our city. It is ethically unacceptable to experiment with the education or future of any child, especially those who may come from more challenging backgrounds or circumstances.

As people who teach and learn in Philadelphia’s schools, and as parents, we know that the problem of educational inequity and school failure is much bigger than teachers and schools: it has to do with people’s access to health care, healthy food, steady employment and a reliable income, early childhood education, and clean water and air, amongst other factors. While there seems to be no panacea for the amalgamation of social issues that affect children’s school experiences, increasing the number of charter schools, and thus, competition, in education does not help to solve any of our city’s problems. Former New York City Schools’ Chancellor Joel Klein advocates in the recent documentary The Lottery for parents to improve education in the city by “vot[ing] with their feet”, in other words, for refusing to send their children to neighborhood public schools that are purported to be low-quality. Yet, if a good public education were free and universal, why would parents have to vote or compete at all for their children’s welfare? Rather than increasing competition and exacerbating an already inequitable schooling environment, we advocate for working together to ensure that every child has, at the very least, access to a free and quality education, regardless of which school they attend or which neighborhood they live in. 

Indeed, charter schools in cities across the United States have become vehicles not only for experimentation, but for privatization and advancement of corporate interests. This is a sad distortion of Al Shanker’s original vision: he conceived of charters as independent, non-faith based public schools that could be started by special interest groups who worked alongside traditional public schools to best meet the needs of diverse populations of students, and to maximize the expertise of teachers and administrators.

Because we do not yet have enough data to say whether charter schools operate in the best interest of the youth on their rosters, at this point, Philadelphia doesn't need more charter schools, whatever their brands or track records might be.

What we need is a commitment to strengthen our existing schools. We need leaders to call upon our state to fund all schools fully and equitably. Finally, we need vision that will help us pull our city's schools from the wreckage brought by severe underfunding and into a new phase that will allow us to meet all students' needs and aspirations.

Education is a public good, not a business enterprise. It is time to fulfill the promise of public education, and provide quality schools to all of our city’s students.



Amy Brown, MST, Ph.D.

Educational Anthropologist

Critical Writing Fellow, University of Pennsylvania

Supporting Member of the Caucus of Working Educators


Kristin R. Luebbert, M.Ed, MS.Ed

Reading Specialist

School District of Philadelphia

Caucus of Working Educators


Anissa Weinraub, M.Ed

English and Theater Arts Teacher

School District of Philadelphia

Caucus of Working Educators


Mark Stern, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Department of Educational Studies, Colgate University

Visiting Scholar, Education, Culture, and Society Program

Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania

Supporting Member of the Caucus of Working Educators


Madeleine Nist, M.A.

Retired, School District of Philadelphia

Caucus of Working Educators


Tamara Anderson, M.Ed


Lead Faculty

University of Phoenix

Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools

Caucus of Working Educators (Supporting Member/Steering Committee)


Nick Palazzolo

Supporting Member of the Caucus of Working Educators


Alison McDowell


Supporting Member of the Caucus of Working Educators

Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools


Eileen Duffey Bernt, RN MS

Certified School Nurse

Caucus of Working Educators

Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools


Mariana Pardes, M.A.

Research Associate, Villanova University

Resident of Philadelphia

Supporting Member of the Caucus of Working Educators


Jody Cohen

Term Professor of Education

Bryn Mawr/Haverford Education Program


Susan Clampet-Lundquist, Ph.D.


Associate Professor

Department of Sociology, Saint Josephs University


Encarna Rodriguez

Associate Professor

Department of Educational Leadership

Saint Josephs University


Carolyn T. Adams, Ph.D.

Department of Geography and Urban Studies

Temple University


Magali Sarfatti-Larson, Ph.D.

Professor of Sociology (Emerita)

Temple University


Kelley Collings, M.Ed, MS.Ed

Math & Science Teacher

School District of Philadelphia

Caucus of Working Educators

Teacher Action Group

Teachers Lead Philly


Sonia M. Rosen, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

School of Education

Arcadia University


Frank Bernt, Ph. D.


Department of Teacher Education

Saint Josephs University


Barbara Ferman, Ph.D


Department of Political Science

Temple University


Sukey Blanc, Ph.D.

Principal Researcher

Creative Research & Evaluation, LLC


Elaine Simon, Ph.D.

Co-Director, Urban Studies Program

University of Pennsylvania


Jerusha Conner, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Education

Villanova University


Rhiannon Maton, M.Ed

Ph.D Candidate, Graduate School of Education

University of Pennsylvania


Nina Johnson, PhD

Instructor, Graduate School of Education

University of Pennsylvania


Grace Player, M.A.

Ph.D. Candidate, Graduate School of Education

University of Pennsylvania


David Hensel


School District of Philadelphia

Caucus of Working Educators, PFT


Shaw MacQueen


School District of Philadelphia

Caucus of Working Educators


James Arrington, M.Ed

Ed.D Candidate, Graduate School of Education

University of Pennsylvania


Thomas Quinn


School District of Philadelphia

Caucus of Working Educators, PFT


Jesse Gottschalk, M.S.Ed


School District of Philadelphia

Caucus of Working Educators, PFT


Kaitlin McCann


School District of Philadelphia



Peggy Marie Savage

N.A.A.C.P-A.C.T-S.O Planning Committee

Upward Bound Math & Science Symposium Judge

N.A.A.C.P-A.C.T-S.O Lead Science Judge

W.E. Working Caucus of the P.F.T

P.F.T. Liaison PLN 5/7

E.L.L. Content Friendly Teacher 5th Grade
Philadelphia Writing Project ( E.L.L)

Philadelphia Teachers Convening Executive Team


Lisa Hantman


School District of Philadelphia

Citizen of Philadelphia


Monica Clark, M.S.

Doctoral Student

College of Education

Temple University

Citizen of Philadelphia


cc: Dr. William Hite, Superintendent

Paul Kihn, Deputy Superintendent

Matthew Stanski, CFP

Claire Landau, Assistant to the SRC

Sophie Bryan, Director, Strategy Delivery Unit


"More Teaching, Less Testing!": Ways to Support Feltonville #OptOut Families and Teachers

Do you believe in limiting high-stakes testing's influence on our classrooms and communities? Even if you're not in the position to opt-out at your school, you can support the families and teachers at Feltonville- and help build a movement!


1. This is a growing movement led by individual parents and teachers who are tired of how over-testing negatively effects students and keeps precious resources from going to schools that need them.

It all starts with simple, individual conversations with your colleagues and families about their experiences with testing, and their visions for more pedagogically and culturally-relevant assessments. Check out some of the many news articles on Feltonville and use one to start a conversation.

2. Sign and share the petition to support Philadlephia Parents' Right to Opt Out! As of this posting we're at almost 700 signatures; help us get to 1,000 this week!

3. Inform yourself! The Philadelphia Educator Law Center has created this fact-sheet on opting out in PA, and APPS Philly has this handy opt out form-letter and guide. Remember that in PA, we don't encourage students to opt out during years (3rd and 7th) that might affect middle- and high-school admissions.

3. Tweet and email your support of Philly's parents to Superintendent Hite and SRC Chairman Bill Green:

Sample Tweets: 

I am a #phled ____ [parent, teacher, student, supporter] and I stand with #optout students & parents at Feltonville! @Green4Philly @PhillyEducation @SDPHite #optoutPHL

I urge @Green4Philly @PhillyEducation @SDPHite to request testing waiver from state! Stop attack of #FeltonvilleStrong teachers #OptOut

Inform parents of #optout rights! @Green4Philly @PhillyEducation @SDPHite  Stop intimidation of #FeltonvilleStrong teachers!

4. Let the world know why you support assessments that help our students and children grow and learn! Post/tweet your own #WhyOptOut ideas.

5. Write a Support Statement, or take a "solidarity selfie" with your family, community, and colleagues! Post them widely, but please also email Feltonville Teacher kelleycollings@gmail.com so she can share your messages and photos with the school. Check out some of the many organizations and individual support letters here.

6. Are you in Philly? Join Feltonville Teachers and Families for an Opt Out Workshop on Thursday, February 5th on how you can build momentum to opt out at your school! 

7. What's your idea? Let us know! This movement will be built by the little actions of millions of families and educators!



Feltonville Teachers Attacked by District



Parents at Feltonville and across the district stand in support of teachers

Dissatisfied with how standardized testing is eclipsing their children’s education, 20% of parents at  Feltonville School of Arts and Sciences -- with the support of teachers -- have opted their children out of standardized testing. And that number is growing despite disciplinary actions taken last week against teachers involved in informing parents of their rights.

Teachers were issued letters compelling them to attend investigatory conferences on Thursday of this week.  The district move follows this City Paper article announcing that 17% of students at Feltonville School of  Arts and Sciences refused to take the PSSAs and other assessments. News of the action prompted Council members María Quiñones-Sánchez, Mark Squilla and Jannie Blackwell to issue a public statement of support for Feltonville families on Thursday saying “Until we put some limits on this obsession with testing students, we will see protests like that at Feltonville. We stand with families who are making the choice they believe is best for their children.”

With the recent appointment of a new Pennsylvania Secretary of Education, Pedro Rivera, Council members Quinones-Sanchez, Squilla, and Blackwell called upon the School Reform Commission to formally request a waiver for this school year, and to begin a review of the long-term strategy to reform the use of standardized testing.

“We, as parents, have a right to say no to the test”, says Heidey Contrera, the mother of 8th grader Natalie Contrera, who, having moved to Philadelphia from the Dominican Republic in 2011, is designated an English Language Learner at Feltonville. “The test is not a good measure of my daughter’s ability. It is not a fair way to judge her. And we’re not taking it.”

“Parents have the right to opt out – that is an indisputable right,” said Helen Gym, co-founder of Parents United for Public Education, one of the groups to come out publicly in support of parents and teachers at Feltonville. “The District has an opportunity to work with parents and teachers on an issue of common gain rather than once again being on the wrong side of the table.”


 News and Support:


City Council Supports Opting Out

City Council Members Express Support for Families ‘Opting Out’ of Standardized Testing in Feltonville

Councilwoman María Quiñones-Sánchez (7th District), Councilman Mark Squilla (1st District), and Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell (3rd District) expressed support today for families who have chosen to ‘opt out’ of standardized testing. “Until we put some limits on this obsession with testing students, we will see protests like that at Feltonville,” said Councilwoman Quiñones-Sánchez. “We stand with families who are making the choice they believe is best for their children,” said Councilman Squilla.

Parents of 17% of students enrolled in the Feltonville School of Arts and Sciences have decided their children will not participate in standardized testing this year, according to reporting today by Philadelphia City Paper’s Daniel Denvir.

Use of standardized testing has dramatically increased in recent years, taking up an increasing amount of school learning time, and interfering with educators’ efforts to focus on students’ development in areas of critical thinking and creative problem-solving. Tests such as the PSSA (Pennsylvania System of School Assesment) are now used for ‘high-stakes’ decisions about the future of individual students, their teachers, and their entire schools. Pennsylvania is planning to implement additional new Keystone Exams as a high school graduation requirement as of 2017.

Feltonville Arts and Sciences, a public middle school, has a significant rate of students who are “English Language Learners” (ELL), who have Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) due to disability or special needs, and who are impacted by trauma. Children report stress, anxiety, and even physical illness caused by this high-stakes testing. “Over-reliance on standardized testing disproportionately harms our most vulnerable students,” said Councilwoman Quiñones-Sánchez.

Philadelphia City Council adopted Resolution #140997 on December 11, 2014, calling on the School District of Philadelphia and the School Reform Commission to analyze the financial and human impact of standardized testing, to identify strategies to minimize its use, and to request a waiver of the Keystone Exams from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in order to adopt assessments that better serve local needs and priorities.

With the recent appointment of a new Pennsylvania Secretary of Education, Pedro Rivera, Council members Quiñones-Sánchez, Squilla, and Blackwell call upon the School Reform Comission to formally request a waiver for this school year, and to begin a review of the long-term strategy to reform our use of standardized testing.


Where Do The Candidates Stand? A Political Platform for 2015

Elections are upcoming for mayor, city council, and city commissioner in Philadelphia. But where do the candidates stand on education issues?

See our platform items below to get an idea of where the candidates should be. If you are attending any meet and greets or public forums, use these items to get the opinions of those who are running!


The Caucus of Working Educators of the PFT believes that ALL Philadelphia school children have the right to a thorough and efficient education. To those ends, WE ask all candidates for public office in Philadelphia to adopt the following platform:

1. Adoption of a fair funding formula that creates equal funding for districts across Pennsylvania, as well as securing of additional revenue sources specifically for Philadelphia. This would include a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) program for institutions of higher education within the city limits, closing tax loopholes for corporations that do business in Philadelphia, as well as state-wide 5% tax on shale drilling, to be split equally between education and public employee pensions state-wide.

2. Restructuring of district debt. In 2015, debt servicing is projected to eat up 9% of the annual budget, or $280 million dollars (http://schoolbudget.phl.io/). Banks must be approached directly to forgive or at least restructure this debt.

3. Local control of our school district, specifically a school board elected by the citizens of Philadelphia.

4. A moratorium on the closing or transitioning of public schools until the district establishes complete financial transparency and oversight for all charter schools.

5. A reduction of the importance of standardized testing, including working to eliminate district-based exams, supporting families that refuse standardized testing for their children, and advocating for the use of multiple measures to evaluate student and school success.

6. Integration of wrap-around services into our schools, including social workers, medical professionals, and universal pre-kindergarten.

7. Equal rights to due process and collective bargaining for all teachers and school staff members across the state, even those in “cities of the first class.”