While WE would like to see this as a sign that the SDP actually recognizes educators as capable of leadership and positive transformation, several of the initiative’s features raise red flags. The initiative may be an improvement over charter takeover and Promise Academies, both of which strip teachers of their professionalism and autonomy. However, the SRI is a long way from a comprehensive, sustainable redesign, and it undervalues both the communities it serves and the educators it employs.
- If this initiative valued educators, it would turn to schools first and work with that building's staff directly. Instead, it lets any group apply for control of any school, pitting current staff against any number of outside interests. (Groups must prove they have a “connection” to the school, but what exactly that entails is unclear.) Moreover, a winning group can force out all of the current staff.
- If this initiative valued local communities, it would allow those communities to select a redesign model for themselves. (Like the families of Steel and Munoz-Marin, who overwhelmingly voted for the plan proposed by their current educators!) Instead, it hands the decision off to a "panel" with no explanation as to how the members will be selected or how the group will reach consensus.
- If the district valued collaboration between educators and community members, it would have set the first deadline a month or two into the school year. This would give stakeholders time to listen to each other, share ideas, and make plans that best serve their students before forming a team. Instead, the letter of intent is due August 19th, less than a month from the announcement of the initiative, and in the middle of summer break.
- If this initiative believed in teacher professionalism and autonomy, it would allow all schools to create "redesign" programs. Instead, the initiative will only accept between two and ten proposals. These groups will receive a relatively small grant (around $30,000) and, more importantly, a three year "grace period" where they are exempt from district assessment and closure. Of course, the grace period doesn't cost a penny -- why not award this autonomy and safety to all schools, and trust teachers to be the professionals that they are?
Most importantly, this initiative distracts from the big picture in Philadelphia schools: without adequate funding, our schools will continue to be a shadow of their former selves. Any attempt at transformation before funding is restored is overconfident at best, and purposefully misleading at worst. Educators have been asked to "do more with less" for years while their colleagues are being laid off by the thousands -- and those same educators have been putting together redesign plans for years, in response to threats of closure and charter takeover. The initiative is our city's version of "Race To The Top," where a lucky few will win a small prize while all schools continue to struggle.
The rapid timeline, lack of transparency in its development, and unveiling in the midst of a funding crisis all lead us to consider the SRI with skepticism. As always, working educators in our schools are yet again being given the message that we are targets for takeover, turnover, and removal. If your school is eligible (see pages 32-35 of the PDF), please talk with your colleagues and mobilize your school community to defend itself from outside “reform.” Proposal letters for the SRI are due August 19th.
It doesn't take that many protestors to make waves! On July 13th, the Caucus turned out a group to protest Arne Duncan's recent appearance in Philadelphia, and the press took notice.
"We are protesting the high-stakes testing that are a part of this 'Race to the Top' [grant] damaging our schools," said Academy at Palumbo nurse Eileen Duffey, who held a poster that read, "School nurse says 'no' to Arne Duncan's high-stakes test."
Caucus members learned earlier that Secretary of Education Duncan will be visiting Philly tomorrow, and Philly teachers will be there to tell him what we think of his pro-testing, anti-public education policies.
Working Educators is encouraging people to join us at the DoubleTree Hotel (Broad and Locust) to protest Duncan's policies from 12-1pm. However, if you are unable to make it, there will be Caucus members at CCP from 10-11am as well.
Duncan will be making two stops, first at CCP from 10-11am, and then from 12-1pm at the DoubleTree Hotel at Broad and Locust. These visits were just announced publicly today via a City of Philadelphia press release.
Duncan has been an avowed supporter of corporate education reform interests. At last week's national NEA Conference, the country's largest teacher union officially called for Duncan's resignation.
Bring signs, sign-making supplies, noisemakers, and most of all- your passion and vision for a robust and equitable public education system in Philadelphia.
This week kicked off the opening meetings for two of WE's Social Justice Unionism Summer Book Clubs, with the rest starting over the next few weeks.
It's never too late to join in with teachers, parents, and community members us to discuss some of the most pressing concerns to education, teachers, and unions. Click here for descriptions of the books we're reading this summer.
Book club times and dates are listed in the calendar below. Because many of the events are at members' homes, we have not published the locations online.
Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for exact location info.
Update: Working Educators is now an official co-sponsor of this event!
For inspiration on reigniting the labor movement today, Joe Burns believes we should look to the militant public worker strikes of the 60's and 70's. In Strike Back: Using the Militant Tactics of Labor's Past to Reignite Public Sector Unionism Today, Burns explores how during the 1960s and 1970s hundreds of thousands of teachers, sanitation workers, and other public employees rose up to demand collective bargaining rights in one of the greatest upsurges of labor history.
Joe Burns' book "Strike Back" uncovers this history of militancy to provide tactics for a new generation of public employees facing unprecedented attacks on their collective bargaining rights.
On July 10th at the Wooden Shoe, Joe will be discussing his book and leading a conversation on how we can rebuild a powerful labor movement in Philadelphia. Working Educators will be there, and we hope you can join us too!
Strike Back: Using the Militant Tactics of Labor's Past to Reignite Public Sector Unionism Today, by Joe Burns
Thursday, July 10th at 7pm
Wooden Shoe Books
704 South St, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19147
It is hard to imagine, but the PA House advanced a state budget in Harrisburg that is far worse for public schools than the budget Governor Corbett proposed earlier this year. Call Harrisburg this week to tell them this is unacceptable.
Our friends at Education Voters of Pennsylvania are putting together a Statewide Call to Action on Friday, June 27th and Monday, June 30th. Please spread this info far and wide, and make sure to call your representatives.
As Ed Voters writes, "advocates must speak out loudly and with one voice in support of responsible funding for public schools this year. If we do not speak up now, public education will likely receive little more than scraps in the budget this year."
Please see the letter below for more info and full details on tomorrow and Monday's call-in days.
Friends and Allies,
On Friday, June 27th, and Monday, June 30th, Education Voters will be holding the next "Call to Action for Public Education" days!
It is hard to imagine, but the PA House advanced a state budget in Harrisburg that is far worse for public schools than the budget Governor Corbett proposed earlier this year.
The PA House is calling to eliminate the $241 million increase in state funding for proposed Ready to Learn Block grants and replace this with a paltry $70 million increase in Basic Education Funding. Under the House budget, PA school districts would lose about 70% of the increases in state funding they were expecting to receive this year and that they were relying on to balance their budgets.
The House budget is irresponsible and unacceptable. It does not call for a shale tax or a cigarette tax. Instead, it relies on the sale of state liquor stores (which the Senate has so far not supported), gimmicky sources of one-time funding, and the suspension of selected tax credits to balance the budget.
Budget negotiations are just beginning. While the budget is still fluid and negotiations are taking place, advocates must speak out loudly and with one voice in support of responsible funding for public schools this year. If we do not speak up now, public education will likely receive little more than scraps in the budget this year.
As with previous Call to Action for Education days, we are asking for broad participation from all organizations and individuals across the Commonwealth. It is incredibly important the legislators in Harrisburg see that people are paying attention. Communities are using these call-in-days to help spread the word about what is happening to our schools, so please join us again!
I have attached materials that you can share as-is or customize, including how to make a good call and key points about the how legislators can improve the proposed budget, so people are prepared to call in. If there is anything we can do to support your efforts, please let us know.
You can always check our website where we have information and materials.
WHEN: Friday, June 27 AND Monday, June 30, 2014
WHAT: Call to Action for Public Education – It’s time for a fair budget for PA’s students!
HOW TO PARTICIPATE: Mark your calendar and plan to ask your own network to take action
Suggested communication schedule
- Put the date on your calendar today
- Send a “Get Ready” email on Thursday, June 26 or Friday, June 27 with action materials
- Send a Take Action email on Monday morning and promote the day on social media. Twitter: #educationpa and #pabudget
Thank you for your support of our public schools. Please contact me if I can help you with this in any way or if you have questions.
Sample “Get Ready” email
On Monday, June 30, the Caucus of Working Educators, in collaboration with Education Voters PA, will be participating in a statewide call in day, to call Harrisburg.
Join thousands of parents, students, teachers and community members from across the state to SPEAK UP in support of our public schools on Monday, June 30th.
Under the proposed House budget, PA school districts would lose about 70% of the increases in state funding they were expecting to receive this year and that they were relying on to balance their budgets.
Budget negotiations are just beginning. While the budget is still fluid and negotiations are taking place, advocates must speak out loudly and with one voice in support of responsible funding for public schools this year. If we do not speak up now, public education will likely receive little more than scraps in the budget this year. We know that just 10 calls in one day to one legislator can make a difference in what a legislator pays attention to.
Mark your calendar today for Monday, June 30th – and do 3 things in 10 minutes to make a difference! Click here for your legislators' phone numbers. Click here for tips on how to make a good phone call.
1. Call your State Senator.
2. Call your State Representative.
3. Call Gov. Corbett's office at (717) 787-2500.
Ask them to:
- Support the adoption of a shale tax, cigarette tax and any reasonable measure to raise revenue and close tax loopholes.
- Support an increase in the Basic Education Funding line that is equal to what was in the proposed Ready to Learn Block Grant.
- Support and advocate for state funding for charter school reimbursement to be restored.
- Support SB 1316/HB2138, the special education funding and accountability reform bill. (Additional information about this bill can be found atwww.educationvoterspa.org)
Want to double your impact? Ask a friend to make a call that day too!
Please take 5-10 minutes on Monday, June 30th to help ensure a bright future for Pennsylvania!
Visit us on the web at EducationVotersPA.org where you can Sign Up for Updates
Follow us on Twitter at @EdVotersPA and #educationPA
Caucus members participated in the PFT Lobby Day in Harrisburg on June 24. We had some good conversations with legislators from all over the state and also heard some great speeches from the Philadelphia delegation!
Working Educators members have written a call to action for Philadelphia teachers to "speak out and shed light on the injustices that are occurring in our schools every day".
Published on The Notebook's Blog, the piece calls on teachers to take action on our Philly Teachers Sound the Alarm Campaign. Check out the full text below, then go contribute your post to Philly Teachers Sound the Alarm.
- - -Read more
You may have seen the City Paper report about FSAS' breakfast protest. Below is a description of how that protest went from idea to reality, courtesy of Caucus Member and FSAS Building Rep Amy Roat.
Why We Protested
In September, my principal and the Food Service manager asked the staff at our school to serve breakfast to the students in Advisory. We had no staff to keep them safe before school, and there was a promise that we would get another Food Service employee if our breakfast attendance increased. It was a lot of hard work on the part of Advisors, and there were unintended consequences – a serious mouse and cockroach infestation.
Not only were we denied another employee after increasing our breakfast attendance 77%, but rumors abound that there will be a cut in staff in the cafeteria for next year.
How we Planned the Protest
Most importantly, teachers should develop relationships across the school – food service, school police, custodial staff and safety staff. Spend some time chatting -- it is not difficult to find common ground. We were all experiencing the ill-effects cutbacks of supplies and staff. We all feel disrespected and know that 440 is totally disconnected from our reality.
When I heard that we had won a $3000 prize for improving our breakfast attendance, I congratulated our Food Service Manager and found out the rest of the story. For some reason, the district was not allowing us to keep the money, and people from 440 were showing up for a photo op. That got everyone talking at lunch time.
By the next day we had a plan. I emailed a description of what was going on and described our protest plans. More importantly, teachers at every lunch period talked it up and reminded each other to wear red. The combination of an email and face to face communication is most effective. It is common for me to receive texts during the day that say ”did you know…” We are in the habit of communicating and taking action.
The day before the protest, two of us approached the food staff and told them how much we cared for and respected them. We were upset about the situation and were planning a protest, but we would not tell them the details to protect them. We contacted a reporter and offered him an exclusive if he guaranteed a story.
The day of the protest, we gathered behind closed doors and discussed exactly what we would do. Then we walked in together. A teacher took the pictures and emailed them to the reporter.
A solid protest requires trust, knowledge, discussion, agreement, publicity and action. This one took about three days to plan.
Looking for ways to bring inspiring projects to your school? Check out this write up from caucus member Tom Hladczuk of Stephen Girard Elementary about a project that involved both art and civic engagement.
The project started When I met Sarah Kodish-Eskind and Jackie Quinn, two artists who run the Art Cart, a mobile art display and selling space that they use to display and sell the work of local artists. I asked if they would like to work with a school and expand the community concept to working with children and getting their community more engaged with the school. They had been thinking along similar lines, so we set about planning it.
In cooperation with Girard teacher Kristy Katz, we applied to Public Citizens United for Children and Youth for a PICASSO arts project grant to fund our idea. We wanted to expand our students' experiences at the school and show the community what they were capable of. The two artists who started Art Cart had this vision as well, independently, and had been doing it to empower local artists. Kristy had the experience of working with the grant before, and doing an engaging art project through PCCY funding. PArt of PCCY's mandate is to do advocacy as well. So we planned it together.
We had never done this kind of project at my school before, and it was fantastic! The grant made art classes possible for the students. They designed their own personal symbol and used it to make their own pencil cases and posters. They told their story by working together to create, design, write, edit, problem-solve and sew.
With the budget crisis looming at our school, we decided to make the project a political one as well. We sent letters stamped with the designs you saw to the local elected officials, and we went on visits to City Council Offices with a parent and student in tow.
The purpose the project was use art as a way to engage the community, give children a voice, and show what public schools can accomplish what they do best when not held back and forced to do rote learning and test prep for standardized tests of low-level skills.
If you are inspired by this project, you can support our students by buying a pencil case! They will be sold at Ultimo Coffee on Saturday, June 14th, at 15th and Mifflin Streets, from 10:00 AM-3:00 PM and on Saturday, June 21st, on Rittenhouse Square.