I take my loyalty to the PFT seriously.
The week the SRC tried to cancel our contract, I was at the microphone testifying against them. I have served as a Political Liaison at two schools. I’ve been a member of Building Committee. I have served on the citywide Community Schools Taskforce, whose work directly led to Mayor Kenney’s pledge to bring Community Schools to Philly. I’ve been to every membership meeting since I’ve been a teacher, and I’ve been to countless protests, rallies, and town halls pushing for public schools and their employees. I make it a point to talk about my union with my colleagues as much as possible, and to make sure that my entire outside network knows about our recent contract battle -- and our win last June.
And sometimes I do those things wearing a WE t-shirt.
And I want to be clear about something: I don’t wear it because I’m against the PFT leadership. I don’t wear it because I’m trying to win votes for anything. I don’t wear it as a statement of opposition, and I’m not wearing it to persuade people of something.
Let me try to explain why I do wear it.
Do you care about racial and economic justice? Do you like to bike? Join the WE team raising money for the Bread & Roses Community Fund's "Change Ride" on September 16th- you can join us for the ride or contribute money to the team!
Riders will enjoy a 10-mile ride across Philadelphia, visiting four Bread & Roses grantees: New Sanctuary Movement, Put People First! PA, Reentry Think Tank, and Youth United for Change. Organizers from these groups will share stories about their campaigns and tell us why those neighborhoods are important to them and the movements they lead. The ride kicks off at 8:30am at Rowhouse Grocery in South Philadelphia with a complimentary breakfast, and will work it's way North, ending with lunch at the Village of Art and Humanities around 1pm.
Click here to join the ride, or to make a donation to the Working Educators Team's fundraising effort. We've raised over $500 for Bread and Roses so far!Read more
Rebel. Organizer. Feminist. Mother. Dolores Huerta is one of the most important organizers and visionaries behind the work of the United Farm Workers and beyond- and a new documentary opening in September tells the story of her life and work in the Labor, Feminist, and Latinx movements.
On Saturday, September 16th Dolores Huerta will be in Philly for a Q&A talkback after the 7pm show at the Landmark Ritz 5 Theater! Come learn some new organizing tricks and celebrate the work of one of the most important, but little known, women in the labor movement. Members of the Working Educators Immigration Justice Committee and Organizing Book Club will be there!
Tickets are still available for purchase online for $10.25 per adult at this link (just make sure it's the 7pm showing on 9/16). Check out the trailer below!Read more
With the new school year right around the corner, the Caucus of Working Educators is getting ready to move forward by looking back at our biggest, most successful year in our short history.
How did our actions turn into wins? Here’s the short version:
In November, WE joined forces with the Fight for 15 campaign and stood with fast food workers, home health care workers, and allies looking to ensure that all Americans earn a living wage at their jobs. Several caucus members took arrests and wrote about why. With a $15 minimum wage already a reality in several cities and states, our participation contributed to a national movement and ongoing debate about raising the wage in Pennsylvania.
Black Lives Matter Week
In January, WE organized our biggest campaign ever, all designed to get schools talking about racial justice. Black Lives Matter week featured suggested curriculum for teachers, an event or panel every evening, and t-shirts to show solidarity and get the conversation started. Over 100 schools participated, and Philadelphia Eagle Malcolm Jenkins spoke at the closing panel. The week set a new standard for how we talk about race in Philadelphia schools, and thanks to our model, BLM week will be going national next year, with other cities modeling their programs after ours.
Starting last November, WE started organizing to protect our students and families who were threatened by new immigration policies. We organized several information sessions, showed up at Philadelphia International Airport when Trump tried to turn away arriving refugees, and advocated tirelessly for the district to step up in its protection of immigrant students. As a result of our efforts, the District agreed to a mandatory training about immigrant rights for all educators at the start of this school year.
PFT Contract Actions
WE never lost sight of the fact that district educators were in their fourth year without a contract -- and we made sure that nobody else in Philly could forget it, either.
First, we designed printed those buttons announcing how many days it had been. And when 1,000 turned into 1,100, 1,200, 1,300+ days... we sent out updated images.
Then, we dropped a banner in the middle of the Labor Day parade to remind our union brothers and sisters that we needed their solidarity.
Next, we flooded Dr. Hite's office with written requests for the district to return to the negotiating table, delivered via pony, the internal mail system.
And then, we printed thousands of lawn signs letting people know that their friendly neighborhood educators neighbors were feeling the squeeze of no contract -- and also letting allies announce their support.
All of these actions moved our contract battle into the public eye -- and brought us a long way towards a fair resolution with the district!
May Day of Advocacy
When it felt like we might not see a contract before the end of the school year, WE decided enough was enough. Over five hundred educators from across the district took personal days and showed up in front of 440 to demand fair treatment, and then at City Hall in solidarity with Day Without An Immigrant. We got the entire city's attention -- including the front page of the Inquirer.
This “coordinated teacher absence” was not a strike, but the district still tried to punish educators for acting within their rights by withholding pay. This attempt was successfully shut down by PFT leadership, who did not endorse the action but supported its members after the fact. We showed the district that, even with the state prohibition on strikes, Philadelphia teachers can still take action -- and that action helped get the PFT to a contract offer the next month.
Before the contract offer was released, we started a petition asking that the PFT leadership give the rank and file a reading period before the vote. Thanks to our efforts, we went from a same-day reading period in 2011 to a three-day reading period for the new contract. When the new terms were released, we immediately built a wage and health care cost calculator to help the rank and file figure out exactly what the contract meant for them financially., organized contract reading parties around the city, and posed questions to the leadership about contract terms we did not understand. Our work helped the rank and file make an informed decision about their vote!
...And Cool T-Shirts!
In addition to the massively popular Black LIves Matter t-shirts, we also did a limited run of PFT Local 3 shirts, in the style of one of your favorite sports teams.
Missed the window? Don’t worry, we’ll be back soon with a new design, this time in the spirit of a different team!
So, What’s Next?
Our committees are hard at work making plans for the coming school year. We’re not a top-down organization, our best ideas come from members and their experiences in their schools, neighborhoods, and communities. Each of the campaigns described above was dreamt up and brought to life by educators just like you.
What that means is: What do YOU think the caucus should be doing next?
That’s right, we want to work with you! Become a member today or just shoot us an email at email@example.com. We’ll help you figure out where you fit in the work.
It’s really that easy.
This past weekend, our country witnessed a white-supremacist, neo-nazi rally storm through Charlottesville VA, intimidating counter-protestors and the community at-large, beating people of color, and causing the death of three people.
Let us be clear: we should not be shocked that—in a country literally built with the blood, tears, and forced labor of a stolen people, a country that has, even after emancipation, striven in various ways to maintain the effects of slavery and centuries of racial exclusion through discriminatory institutional practices—white American terrorists work to enact their agenda upon us all. What these events should force us to do is to both reflect upon and act against the racist ideas and forces that have led us to this point.
As school workers, we have a moral obligation to confront these ideas, work with our students to navigate their lived reality, and give them the time and space in their classrooms to discuss our world.Read more
The WE Immigration Justice Committee is proud to announce that all School District of Philadelphia personnel will be trained to support the needs and rights of immigrant students and families.
The mandatory training was a central demand made by WE committee members during our spring organizing initiative. The District has committed to offering a 90-minute immigrant rights training to all teachers, principals, and support staff. School police officers and secretaries will also be trained at District Headquarters.
The District is looking for teachers willing to conduct the training at their schools or assist at other schools. If you care about making this program successful at your school, sign up for the training by logging on to www.PhilaSD.org and going into PD planner.
Here's how WE advocated for this program to happen:
During the fall, the WE immigration justice committee met with students, teachers, administrators, community members, and leaders from immigrant groups and immigrant rights organizations about how schools can support and protect immigrant students and families.
The committee then consolidated five policy recommendations in the following areas to be made to the School District: limiting Immigration and Customs Enforcement access to schools; protecting the confidentiality around immigration status of immigrant students and families; providing language access; teaching educators awareness of immigration induced trauma; and creating hate-free schools.
The committee decided the best way for the District to implement these recommendations would be through a series of District-wide trainings.
In collaboration with students from the Newcomer Lerner Center, along with representatives from the Education Law Center, Juntos, the African Diaspora Global Initiative, and La Puerta Abierta organization, WE members and supporters testified before the School Reform Commission on May 18, 2017 asking that all School District personnel be trained in the five identified areas before the beginning of the 2017-18 school year.
After the testimony, WE committee members met with School District leadership from the offices of Multilingual Family Support and Family and Community Engagement to understand how the District intends to implement the trainings.
The District has decided to host four train-the-trainer sessions in the middle of August to train educators to conduct the mandatory training in their schools. With the support of PFT and School District administrators, we are committed to disseminating the information for the train-the-trainer sessions and to recruiting educators to lead these important workshops in our schools.
Please sign up today!
Trainers Wanted: Creating Safe and Welcoming Schools for Immigrant and Refugee Students
Please sign-up for a training AND speak to your building principal or administrator to let them know that you would like to help facilitate the training at your school. All school principals are required to provide this professional development session for all school-based staff. School principals can either deliver the session by themselves, or have a trained co-facilitator who is interested, willing, and available to assist them. The session will take 1.5 hours to complete and will be offered during the mandatory August school level professional development days (August 28, 29, 30).
PFT members with teaching experience are invited to receive training on a voluntary basis, should their school or another school leader seek a co-facilitator.
We encourage PFT members to take advantage of this opportunity to learn new ways to make sure our schools are safe spaces for EVERY child.
The 1.5-hour train-the-trainer sessions will be held at 440 North Broad Street on the following dates:
August 14: 1:00 - 3:00 pm - Café 440
August 16: 9:00 - 11:00 am - Room 1071
August 21: 9:00 - 11:00 am - Room 1182
August 25: 9:00 - 11:00 am - Room 1080
At the end of each train-the-trainer session, the District will notify principals of who has successfully completed the training, so that principals know whom is available should they need assistance with the training.
Act 48 credits will be offered. Interested members should register using PD Planner.
Are you from outside Philadelphia County?
We need you to join the statewide movement to make sure our schools have all the money they need and to keep our local schools under our own local control.
The only way we will win full funding and local control for all of our schools is when we build a coalition of advocates across the state. As Pennsylvanians, it’s the politicians in Harrisburg who decide our children’s future. When it comes to funding, high-stakes testing, graduation requirements, teacher quality, special education, arts, music, class size, career and technical education, we are all in this together.
Working Educators will do whatever it takes to create top-notch public schools statewide, and we believe that students, families, and educators deserve far more funding, support, and opportunities than are currently provided.
What’s the big deal about schools in Pennsylvania?
Public schools in PA are criminally underfunded and under the control of anti-student politicians. Harrisburg’s neglect of PA public schools is a national embarrassment.
Pennsylvania is ranked 49th in the country when it comes to state funding for schools. Politicians on both sides of the aisle have denied students in all counties their basic right to fully-funded schools, and allowed outside companies to come into our districts and take over our public schools. Because the state refuses to pay its fair share for public schools, homeowners in PA pay more and more in local property taxes every year. The state wants us to be responsible for fully funding our own local schools, but then wants to take away our say in what happens in our own local school districts. How is that fair?
How can we fix PA schools?
Plain and simple: the PA legislature must pass legislation that guarantees full funding and genuine local control for every district in the state.
If we move just a fraction of the taxpayer money that currently pays for corporate taxbreaks and kickbacks to the 1%, Pennsylvania schools could be fully funded, providing all students with the education they deserve. We are ready to solve the Keystone educational crisis--and to push out any politician who stands in our way. There’s no time to lose.
Why should I care?
Because you love your family, your neighbors, and your public schools!
Our movement for fully funded and locally-controlled schools is non-partisan and all-policy. Strong schools help build strong economies, for everyone. A system of funded public schools is the backbone of a functional democracy that works for all. And we will win this fight--if good people like you step up and join us.
If you haven't yet noticed, the new PFT contract means that the District will again be honoring advanced degrees and graduate credits starting July 1st, 2017. Additionally, the contract has preserved the Senior Career Teacher status, which requires ten years of service, state certifications in two or more subjects, and a Masters degree plus 60 additional credits.
Don’t let your salary losses accumulate more than they have to (see this chart compiled by the Caucus of Working Educators). If you have the credits, you can move up a lane immediately to Masters +30 and, once you hit your 10-year anniversary and earn an additional 30 credits, submit your paperwork for Senior Career Teacher.
This will significantly help minimize the amount of money you may have lost during the status quo contract freeze from 2013-17 and help you recoup much of that salary.
You can examine the current Salary Schedule here.
(If you are not sure what salary schedule you are at, you can either multiply BASE pay on your paycheck by 21.7 or click here to go to the District's Open Data and search for your name under Employee Information. All of our salaries are public information.)
You can examine the District's requirements and protocol (both Masters + 30 and Senior Career) for Salary Upgrades here.
Once you have completed enough graduate credits (90 credits above your Bachelors, after having obtained a Masters) for Senior Career then make sure you have dual certification. You can view Teaching Certificates offered in PA here (Note: K-12 Certificates already pre-qualify as dual cert.)
You can register for your Praxis Exam here.
Finally, the following is just a short list of online courses priced under $400 for 3 credits. If you find more, please leave them in the comments section for others to see and so that we can edit this list as time goes on!
MAKE SURE TO VERIFY THAT A UNIVERSITY IS ACCREDITED BY CLICKING HERE AND SEARCHING FOR THE INSTITUTION PRIOR TO ENROLLMENT!
- Shepherd University (3 Graduate credits for $282) Advertised through SDP website here and direct website: http://virtualeduc.com/shepherd/
- Andrews, Greenville, and Loyola Marymount through Advancement Courses (3 Graduate credits for $449) Up to 15% discount until June 30th using promo code SUM10 (10% for 1 or 2 courses) or SUM15 (15% for 3+ courses) https://www.advancementcourses.com/
- University of La Verne (3 Graduate credits for $345) https://www.pdcourses.net/index.php
- University of California – San Diego (3 Graduate credits ranging from $271 to $374) https://webteaching.com/
- PBS TeacherLine – numerous universities participate (3 Graduate credits ranging from $300-$400) http://www.pbs.org/teacherline/earn-credit/
- Augustana, Colorado St. Pueblo, Lourdes, Marygrove, Pacific Lutheran through Learners Edge (3 Graduate credits for $425) Get $70 off each course until June 30th using promo PHLSDSU1707 (ordering one course) or PHLSDSU1754 (order two or more) http://www.learnersedgeinc.com/
For four decades, Philadelphia’s Bread & Roses Community Fund has supported community-based groups in building movements for racial equity and economic opportunity. This support takes the form of fundraising, grantmaking, capacity building, and convening for real change—change created by people with the courage to stand up, the determination to join together, and the resources they need to create solutions for justice.
One of Bread & Roses’ major support mechanisms is the Racial & Economic Justice Fund (REJ), created to assist groups engaged in direct-action community organizing in the Philadelphia region to promote racial and economic justice at the local, state, national, or international policy levels. The Caucus of Working Educators (WE) is honored to be a 2017 REJ grantee, a distinction that will take our organizing work for systemic change in Philadelphia’s education system to the next level.
WE formed in March 2014 as a rank-and-file caucus of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers focused on racial, economic, and social justice. WE seek to support and energize our union through ever more member-driven union activity; advocating for transparency, accountability, and shared decision-making; and, strong contracts for and rights of our union members.
WE wage campaigns to hold School District leadership, PFT leadership, elected officials, and city, state, and federal administrators accountable to democratic values represented by public schools and public education. WE work to defend publicly-funded public education for all, with transformed curriculum and autonomy to teach, not test. WE work alongside the students, families, and neighborhoods of Philadelphia. WE seek a broad membership base of educators, parents, community partners, and other allies, and develop the leadership ability of those members.
This REJ grant from Bread & Roses will enable us to deepen our work of intensive in-person outreach and leadership development on the ground, creating spaces for capacity building and campaign organizing, and connecting with racial, immigrant, and economic justice movements in Philadelphia. Bread & Roses will officially recognize and celebrate the Caucus and all of the 2017 Racial & Economic Justice Fund grantees (among them the 215 People's Alliance, Asian Americans United, New Sanctuary Movement, the Media Mobilizing Project, Philadelphia Coalition for Affordable Communities, Youth Art & Self-Empowerment Project, and Youth United for Change) at the “On the Rise for Real Change” event on Wednesday, June 28, from 6:00 to 7:30 P.M. at Cultureworks Greater Philadelphia, 1315 Walnut Street, Suite 320. Pre-registration is required!
In this contract ratification process, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers makes several steps towards allowing a more democratic and transparent system for the rank and file to review and understand the terms of the offer. Improvements to this process included:
- Providing a two-day reading period for the contract terms
- Running a webinar to review select points and answer questions about those points
- Posting both a summary and complete terms of the change online so they could be accessed by all members
- Making the procedure for the vote clear, and specifically clarifying that the vote was via paper ballot, not the symbolic voice vote.
The Caucus of Working Educators is pleased with this shift towards giving members a chance to review the offer. We assembled a “contract crunch team” to comb through the terms and make sure that any confusion could be explored and addressed and sent our questions to Jerry Jordan hoping for a response. We built a spreadsheet to help employees at all step levels calculate exactly what their future salaries would be under the new offer. We organized contract reading parties around the city on Sunday to help people make sense of the offer together, and supported members around the city in facilitating discussion in their own buildings the day of the vote.
All of these shifts made us hopeful that our vote at the Liacouras Center would have given us a chance to ask questions for clarity and have an honest discussion about terms that we did not yet understand.
Unfortunately, the meeting consisted of a video, a Power Point presentation, and a move to call for a vote while dozens of members were still waiting to speak, with no opportunity to ask questions or gain the clarity we were hoping for.
When the call to close discussion was made, many members objected – and also questioned why others would seek to shut things down when they had the option to cast their ballot and leave the meeting at any time.
This shutting down of discussion and discourse threatens to repeat our path in 2010. At the last contract vote, when we had mere hours to review the terms, many members were confused about a clause on “Renaissance Schools” – a provision that was also approved without discussion, and resulted in dozens of schools being handed over to charter operators.
Shutting down discussion served no benefit to those who supported the move, and only alienated those who wanted clarity about the contract that defines our lives for the next three years.
To be clear: we are pleased with the result of the vote, in which nearly half of PFT’s membership voted – in contrast to 2010, where only 16% of members cast ballots. In our own internal poll, a majority of Caucus members also approved the contract offer, and we were excited to lend our support at the meeting while still seeking the clarity we needed to move forward in our work and our lives.
Every PFT member deserves a union that considers open debate and discussion a sign of strength, not weakness. WE believe that democracy makes our union stronger and will continue the push for discussion and transparency, into the next contract negotiation and beyond.