SRC Testimony: Tamara Anderson

On Thursday, October 16th, ten members of the Caucus testified before the SRC. This week we will be posting some of their testimonies in written form.

I am a parent of an 8th grader and a community member of the Caucus of Working Educators, Alliance of Philadelphia Public Schools and Opt-Out Philly. I am very aware that the budget crisis in Philadelphia is a symptom of no full fair funding formula and years of fewer and fewer dollars being sent to this county and the entire state. Then I heard the news last Monday, that the SRC unanimously voted in favor of a cancelled contract without any input from the PFT and hid the announcement for the meeting in a clandestine manner in the back of a newspaper. And I realized that the problems of funding public education is not just a Harrisburg problem, it is right here at 440 North Broad Street too.

This latest and lowest act is a blow to our morale, our dignity, and overall trust. The last time I checked every union in this city (no matter the outcome) was given the opportunity to talk, haggle, and talk some more until a consensus was met. And if this can happen in one of the largest school districts in the country than it can happen anywhere, and it will become a place that repels new talent and will further the divide that discourages teachers of color from joining the work force. And since fairness and legality has been thrown out of the window altogether they may not even have to be recruited and hired in the first place, but I digress.

This house has been burning for a very long time. But, Monday symbolized the complete ashes and ruin that public education has been eroded to by corporate interests, racists and unequal policies, and simple stupidity.

Fortunately for the children of Philadelphia there is a phoenix attempting to rise from the ashes in the form of its citizens. Citizens who are no longer willing to be bamboozled and led astray. Citizens who are willing to fight and return this city back to an even better place by reforming and reinstating democratically elected local control. Citizens who are willing to see this entity erased!


Convention Keynoter Speaks out about Philadelphia

yohuru-williams-200.jpgOn Saturday, November 8th, The Caucus of Working Educators will be hosting their first annual convention.

One of the many reasons to join us on that day: keynote speaker Yohuru Williams, who recently wrote about the situation in Philadelphia for the LA Progressive. Here's a taste of his analysis:

In spite of Commonwealth Foundation and various other entities efforts to paint teachers as the bad guys, a poll conducted by the Pew Charitable Trusts in September of 2013 found that 31 percent of residents placed responsibility for the crisis in the Philadelphia School District on the Republican-controlled state legislature and Governor. Another 31 percent blamed the Democratic Mayor and City Council and 21 percent blamed school administrators and the state-controlled State Reform Commission. Only 11 percent of those surveyed held the union or teachers responsible.

This is ultimately why the Commonwealth Foundation likely felt the need to hire counter protesters. The fact that they were willing to go to this extreme was of little surprise to Philadelphia teachers. They know that much of the drama in the city has been orchestrated by shadowy behind-the-scenes organizations, with popular sounding names, but funded by billionaires who have been very clear about the agenda to destroy the teachers union on their road to dismantling the public schools. Their broad reach extends through state and local politics and knows no party bounds. Both Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, a Democrat, and Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, a Republican, have received support from them — apparently in exchange for supporting the corporate education reform agenda including privatization of schools in the city of Brotherly Love.


SRC Testimony: Amy Roat

On Thursday, October 16th, ten members of the Caucus testified before the SRC. This week we will be posting some of their testimonies in written form.

My name is Amy-Nicole Roat. I am a citizen of Philadelphia. I am a member of the PFT. I am a member of the Caucus of Working Educators. I am a teacher.

My father was a firefighter and my mother was a teacher. When I was in college and sat down with my parents to discuss my decision to become a teacher, they could not have more proud. My father reminded me that while I would not have material wealth, I would have the great reward of helping others. I would have to work very hard and in return I would have a predictable income, decent benefits, and the respect of my community. Eventually, after contributing with every paycheck, I would even have a pension to rely on in my retirement. Now this story isn’t unique – most civil servants will tell a story similar to mine.

For many years, the members of this commission have done everything in their power to undermine every single aspect of our humble, yet noble plans. You have systematically undermined our trust and the trust of the public by erasing our contract.  You have also raised the ire of every union member in this city. 

My greatest fear, however, is not for my future; it is for the future of Philadelphia’s children and families.  Not many parents in this day would encourage their child to be a teacher. The steps you have taken have seriously hampered the potential to attract quality teachers in this city. One can hardly pick up a paper without reading of the plight of the students and PFT members. Rather than a seasoned teacher corps, we may be lucky in the near future to have glorified temp workers that burn out every two or three years.  I know that most people in this city will see your cynical vote for what it was – a deliberate move to bust our union and further erode the education of the kids in this city.  Know this: we will not rest until we have undone your heinous deed.

In all honesty, I cannot say that I was surprised by last week’s ambush – I didn’t know what or when, but I knew you - Green, Hite, Jimenez, and Simms were planning to harm us.  My only surprise was that Neff joined you.  Neff, you were one of us and you betrayed us.  It will never be forgiven and never be forgotten.  You will forever be a shameful footnote when history records that students and parents, the PFT and its many other allies, fought back against you, and won. We won’t let you erase our careers and our union.


Show the world how WE keep our contract with students

In a new project started by writer and WE member Marta Rose, writers from around the world are teaming up with Philly teachers to show the world how WE keep our contracts with students every day-- at the same time as the SRC is breaking their contract with teachers and schools.

Check out an excerpt below featuring school nurse Eileen Duffey, and go to KeepingTheContract.Org to be inspired by many more stories of teachers keeping their contract with the students and families of Philadelphia. 


Eileen Duffey, School Nurse

Eileen Duffey (r) with poet Daisy Fried

Eileen Duffey (r) with poet Daisy Fried

Eileen Duffey

by Daisy Fried

“People think school nurses slap on bandaids,” says Eileen Duffey, the three-day-a-week nurse for over 900 students at The Academy at Palumbo, a South Philadelphia high school, and two-day-a-week nurse for more than 500 kids at Allen M. Stearne Elementary School in Frankford. In fact, Duffey, who’s been a Certified School Nurse for 20 years, does give out bandaids. And sometimes deodorant and mouthwash, and safety pins and duct tape, if a kid’s clothes tear, items she supplies herself, not with district funds. “Because when you’re a teenager, your day is ruined if somebody says ‘ew, I smell something, is that you?’” My job is to get kids back to class. And I’d rather have a teen come sit in my office for 20 minutes because life sucks, so they can salvage the rest of the day, instead of going truant.”

But that’s only part of the job.

The goal of school health programs according to the National Association of School Nurses (NASN) is to “meet the needs of the whole child and support school achievement.” This gets complicated when, according to NASN, 16% of the nation’s 52 million school kids have chronic physical, emotional or other health problems, and schools have become the only source of health care for many children and adolescents. Asthma, diabetes and autism are among disorders for which diagnoses have risen sharply in children in the last decade.

The maximum nurse to student ratio allowed by law is 1:1500. But NASN recommends a ratio of 1:750—and that’s for kids with non-complex health needs. Duffey watches over more than 1400 kids. Low-income kids have more health problems and less access to medical care outside of school. 97% of Stearne kids and 75% of Academy teens are classified as “economically disadvantaged” by the School District of Philadelphia.

Kids with chronic health problems need emergency as well as routine daily plans. If a child has diabetes, says Duffey, “you have to communicate with a lot more people than you’d think—administrators, classroom and phys ed teachers, a CHOP Endocrine nurse, sometimes the Department of Human Services—while also making sure the child is following any protocols necessary.” When a child of undocumented immigrants (who is legally entitled to public education in the U.S.), who has no health insurance, is diagnosed with a serious hereditary heart problem, Duffey talks to doctors to figure out how the child can get the expensive medicine the child needs. She maneuvers through red tape to plan for the possibility of an ER visit during school hours. And she needs to get other people at the school, from the principal on down, in on the protocols, so that when Duffey’s away on her other assignment, the child gets essential care. “I trust myself as a professional to manage that—as long as I’m there,” says Duffey. “After all, I don’t have to oversee the PSATs and 50 other things that a principal might. I am a medical person—the only medical person. This job cannot be done well on the cheap and it cannot be done well at current staffing levels.”

Read more

SRC Testimony: Eileen Duffey

On Thursday, October 16th, ten members of the Caucus testified before the SRC. This week we will be posting some of their testimonies in written form.

Good evening.

I am coming up on three years on not having missed an SRC meeting. I am a volunteer citizen I do this at the end of my work day and I have learned an awful lot about citizenship. I have learned an awful lot about things that are disconcerting. I have to spend a lot of effort and energy to keep myself from becoming very cynical with regards to what we  are in the midst of.

I had a few remarks prepared, but some of my colleagues in the Caucus of Working Educators and other citizens tonight have done better than I could do myself. I have just one burning question that came up when I was sitting in the audience tonight and that is: “Why does Mark Gleason even have to sign up to speak at an SRC meeting?”

Mark Gleason runs the Great School Compact. He is the person who is essentially running this school district behind closed doors in meetings that most of the people here are not invited to attend.

Why is Mark Gleason’s presence even necessary? Seeing him only reminds us that the best kept secret in Philadelphia is that Mark Gleason, the SRC members in front of me, Dr. Hite, the governor, the mayor, and to some extent the media have been involved in a full court press effort to destroy this district from within and without, leaving a few dozen of us spending every moment of our waking hours, with zero compensation--people at the grassroots level--trying to hold up this public school district--trying to get a vision of a real school district that people who live in this city would want to send their children to.

We are all onto you and, I think increasingly you won’t be a best-kept secret because we are committed to getting this word out.

And speaking of not backing down -- Ms. Simms, you haven’t seen anything yet.


In Response to Sylvia Simms

As educators, we know that "high expectations" is more than just a slogan -- it's a necessity. If we want our students to succeed and go on to great things, we need to show them every day that we believe in them, and give them the encouragement they deserve.

For this reason, we are appalled by the actions of SRC Commissioner Sylvia Simms, who responded to nonviolent student activists with a verbal assault -- telling students that "You belong in jail," and "You must go to failing schools."

We believe that respect for students must begin at the top. We are ashamed of the actions of SRC Commissioner Simms, whose actions dishonor her role overseeing our schools.

To us, this incident reinforces our call for a publicly accountable School District. Her refusal to apologize only strengthens our call to eliminate the SRC.


SRC Testimony: Kristin Luebbert

On Thursday, October 16th, ten members of the Caucus testified before the SRC. This week we will be posting some of their testimonies in written form.


Good Evening Dr. Hite, Mr. Green, and Commissioners,


My name is Kristin Luebbert. I am a proud citizen of this great city, a member of the PFT, and a member of the Caucus of Working Educators.


I would like to speak tonight on the equity of shared sacrifice. This has been your go-to phrase as you excoriate teachers and other school workers for daring to expect “leaders” to uphold the law and the constitution of this nation by honoring a contract that was fairly and legally negotiated and agreed to.


So, let’s talk about “shared sacrifice”.  About a year ago, you, Dr. Hite, took a ten percent pay cut (though you still make six figures) and asked your leadership team to do the same.  Last we heard, no one on the leadership team had actually agreed to what you, their boss, asked of them.  If that has changed recently, please feel free to correct me now.


So, since “negotiations” on this matter with your leadership team seem to have stalled (the same rationale you used to cancel the PFT contract), I am asking if you and the SRC are willing to unilaterally cancel the contracts of the leadership team and impose the 10% pay cut upon them.


If not, why not?  Why should the shared sacrifice of in-school employees be greater than that of that of the leadership team?


It is time to give control of OUR schools back to the citizens of Philadelphia. It is time for leaders to act honorably and live up to their agreement. Teachers, counselors, nurses, classroom assistants, secretaries, NTAs and all school workers honor our contract with kids and families every day.  If the leaders of this district cannot honor theirs, it is time to erase the SRC.


Consider this your personal invitation...

We are almost ready for tomorrow's rally! Check out the big builds we made tonight on Facebook -- and also check out our sample signs if you need inspiration for your own.


But now we have to ask: Are you doing your part to turn out the community?

At too many rallies, the only people in attendance are PFT Members. But this time around, that won't be the case -- students, family, community stakeholders, and a slew of other unions have already agreed to take part.

So, what about your friends and family? If they care about you, then they care about the future of public education, and they need to participate in tomorrow's action in some shape or form.

We know that this kind of ask can be hard, so we're providing a script to help you do it. Use as much or as little of it as you like. Just make sure that you don't keep our situation a secret. We need all of Philadelphia in this fight with us!

Oh, and if you're not a PFT member, consider this your personal invitation from the caucus to come out and support us tomorrow!

Dear _______,

As you may have picked up from my Facebook feed, my teachers contract was canceled last Monday in a stealth meeting held by the school district. The school district is now attempting to force health care payments on its employees, claiming that we are the only stakeholders in Philadelphia who haven't "sacrificed" to help our underfunded district. 

Without going into an exhaustive labor history, canceling a collective contract like ours is both illegal and crazy, to the point where ALL Philly unions are considering going on a general strike in support of teachers.

You all know I love my job. You all also know how hard I work. So you should also know that the district is not really doing this to save themselves some money -- they are doing this to screw over my union,scapegoat teachers, and possibly help Corbett rally his base of conservative voters by making Philadelphia teachers look greedy

To those ends, I have a big ask: 

Join me tomorrow at 4PM to rally in front of the school district office at 440 North Broad Street.
There's gonna be many unions, and teachers hosting grade-ins, and GIANT PENCILS built by Spiral Q, and multiple unions, and students being badass. Get all the details on the Facebook invite.


Now, I know this is last minute ask and a lot of people have work -- so if you can't make it, I have a much easier small ask: 

Post a #solidaritywithteachers
 photo on social media any time tomorrow, but especially between 4 and 6 PM.

Twitter or FB, doesn't matter, you can totally tag me as the reason you're doing it, just make sure you include the proper hashtags: #solidaritywithteachers and #phled. 

I'm attaching a couple of photos as examples. Take one with your partner! Take one with your office! Take one standing on your head! 

But if you are serious the future of Philly, you need to be in on this.



Weekly Update: How to Make Thursday Work for YOU

Editors Note: To get these weekly updates in your email, please click on the "Join Us" button above, and join the mailing list or join as a Caucus member (you don't have to be in the PFT to be part of WE!).

First off, we've got two more essential resources to help you understand the SRC's proposed health care costs:

  • How would your health care costs add up? - A review of monthly and annual costs for EVERY health plan offered, calculated correctly by actual district math teachers.
  • Are Philly teachers on par? - An exhaustive comparison of average salaries and health care costs in the region, expertly researched by Central History teacher George Bezanis.

Do you notice a trend here? Caucus members are debunking the lies that the SRC has spread in the past week ( that the press is only just starting to recognize as misinformation, at best.)

Of course, the real issue here is not one of dollars and cents -- it's the broken trust between the SRC and the union, working educators, and the entire city of Philadelphia.

To those ends, it is essential that anyone who cares about public education in Philadelphia join us on Thursday:

Keeping Our Contract With the Students of Philadelphia

Even though the School District of Philadelphia arbitrarily cancelled the contracts of 12,500 teachers on Monday, teachers across the city continue to uphold our contracts to educate and care for the students and families of Philadelphia. 

How do YOU keep your contract every day with the students of Philadelphia? Whether you're a teacher, parent, student, or community member, come to 440 N Broad on Thursday, 10/16 to show the SRC what it means to keep our contract with Philadelphia's kids.

How can you make this rally meaningful? 

To be clear, it is about more than just "showing up" -- we need to present a clear message to Philadelphia about what has gone wrong with the school district, and then publicize that message ourselves by photographing, videotaping, and sharing everything that happens during the event.

So what should you be doing? Here are some prompts for each group of stakeholders:


  • "The SRC broke my contract, but I'm keeping my contract by ___________." Describe the work that you do to support your students despite the disrespect you've been shown.
  • BRING THAT WORK to the rally! Educators will be participating in a "grade-in" both in the Atrium and outside of 440.
  • Also: "My Union WANTS to Negotiate!"
  • Also: "Collective Bargaining is the LAW!"
  • Also: "Dr. Hite pays 5% of his healthcare costs. Can I get that plan?"


  • "I'm helping teachers keep their contract by ____________" -- fill in the blank. rallying today? bringing supplies to school? paying for extra programming? volunteering?
  • "I am a (school name) parent and I stand in #solidaritywithteachers"
  • "The SRC has disrespected my children, their teachers, and our community."

Community Members:

  • "I am an ______________ (job description) and I stand in #solidaritywithteachers"
  • "I am a graduate of _______________ and my school and its teachers deserve better."
  • "The SRC has violated the public trust!"


You'll probably be hearing from us again before the big day. In the meantime, share these prompts with everybody you know. Make personal asks for friends and family to turn out. 

Because this isn't about some health care costs. This is about the future of public education in our city.



Are Philly Teachers on Par?

By George Bezanis

Editors Note: This article can now be downloaded as a printable PDF. Please print and share with colleagues, friends, and family!


SRC Chair Bill Green, Mayor Michael Nutter, and Governor Tom Corbett have recently said that the reason they decided to impose contract terms on the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers is because, unlike other school districts in Pennsylvania, Philadelphia teachers do not contribute toward health care. Philadelphia teachers, they claim, have not sacrificed enough for the children of Philadelphia.


The number Green, Nutter, Corbett, and the SRC have been throwing around is that it will only cost Philadelphia teachers 5-13% of the insurance premium, or approximately $25-$75 a month - a reasonable request.


What they fail to mention, however, is that that particular quote is for a single individual under a high deductible plan. Under the District’s new benefits, the SRC is now eliminating their previously cheaper Keystone HMO 15 $0 deductible plan. The new standard plan, Personal Choice 320, has higher deductibles and only covers 90% of inpatient hospital costs. This move deceptively forces teachers to “buy-up” to the Personal Choice 20/30/70 plan, which costs the district a total of $24,239.64 per year ($2019.97 x 12).


For someone who earns $55,000, the resulting $6319 yearly premium amounts to a 26% contribution -- not 13% as quoted in the papers -- and is, in fact, a 11.5% pay-cut for a Philadelphia teacher earning $55,000. If, God forbid, you have a spouse who works and would like to add them to your plan, it adds up to an astounding $8139 premium, or a 34% contribution resulting in a nearly 15% pay cut.


So what about those teachers in other schools that already pay towards their health care? How do Philadelphia teachers compare? Are Philadelphia teachers, as SRC Chair Bill Green stated, on par with them?


I decided to research what teachers who earn $55,000 in other districts pay towards their health care for a $0 deductible family plan (including spouse), and here are my findings:


$61 a month
Lower Merion
2.2% of salary
14% of premium
Council Rock
16% of premium
16% of premium
Central Bucks
16% of premium
Lower Moreland
6% of premium
11% of premium

26% of premium
34% of premium
$6,319 or
$8,139 (spouse)

*(Note: I researched over 20 districts, and while all the numbers are remarkably consistent with these findings, I only chose to include those districts that actually have their contracts posted online so that readers know the data is 100% accurate.)