Heal Our Schools: Community Meeting to End Toxic School Conditions

On Monday, December 10 from 4:30 - 6:30, the Caucus of Working Educators is hosting a community meeting to end toxic school conditions. 

As we have moved through this school year, it has become abundantly clear that our schools are shells of the learning institutions they could be. Our students deal with trauma in their neighborhoods and are then asked to sit in classrooms that further their distress. Many of our buildings are uninhabitable, from the lead, asbestos, and the crumbling, leaky ceilings to a lack of heating, cooling, and ventilation. In the neighborhoods, the gun violence and housing instability make the day to day lives our students even more treacherous; Philadelphia’s children are being asked to do too much! Collectively, teachers and parents have to demand better for our kids. 

But there are steps we can take to get what schools need. Ending the 10-year tax abatements, demanding an increase in social workers and counselors in schools, and pushing for an eradication of lead and asbestos in ALL schools can be accomplished if we work in unison. We want to bring together people in the city who are ready to take action. 

On Monday December 10th, join us from 4:30-6:30pm at The U School (2000 N. 7th street). The school is easily accessible via bus 3, 47, regional rail and the BSL. There will be speakers, snacks, and real ways to get involved. Click here to RSVP and share on social media.

Childcare will be provided.

Email us at contact@workingeducators.org with any questions.

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Parents Speak Out From "The Most Toxic School In Philadelphia"

As an elementary school crossing guard, Kenya Cannon takes children’s safety very seriously. Everyday, she shepherds students across her intersection and into Cassidy Elementary School, where they should be safe. But over the past year, Kenya has learned that Cassidy Elementary School is not a safe place for students or adults.

Last spring, the Philadelphia Inquirer revealed that Cassidy is “perhaps the most toxic school in the Philadelphia system,” with elevated levels of lead, asbestos, and other asthma triggers. The report helped her make sense of the serious asthma attacks her son had been suffering, and she decided to transfer him to a different school with a safer building. His condition has improved considerably since starting at the new school.

But Kenya continues to worry about the hundreds of children who cross the street and enter Cassidy each day. How is the lead dust and asbestos affecting their short-term and long-term health? Why isn’t the School District taking action to protect students’ safety?

Determined to speak out on behalf of the children in her charge, Kenya signed up to testify at the November Board of Education action meeting. During the first snowstorm of the season last Thursday, she braved the snow and ice and spent two hours battling traffic in order to appear at the meeting. Arriving just after 6pm, she found that the meeting had ended early due to the weather, and she had lost her chance to speak before the Board. Here is what she planned to say:

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What are Philly educators doing on Election Day?

Working Educators believes in grassroots organizing to get politicians in office that will support public education. The outcome of tomorrow's election will have an enormous impact on Philadelphia's public schools, and on PFT members. Pennsylvania's future governor and state legislature will be making big decisions about our ability to organize as a union and collectively bargain. They will make decisions about school privatization and whether or not to give away precious education dollars in the form of vouchers to private schools. And most importantly, they will make decisions about school funding! 

Pennsylvania is 49th in the country for the percentage of school funding that comes from the state.  To make it even worse, the money that is being distributed is going at a LOWER rate to students of color across the state of Pennsylvania. We must vote for legislators who will increase funding for education and demand that ALL funding go through PA's fair funding formula. WE hope you will cast your vote for Senator Bob Casey, Governor Tom Wolf and Lt. Governor John Fetterman in order to ensure more equitable funding for our schools and to protect our rights to unionize. 

There are many other amazing candidates to vote for in this electoral cycle, including many new candidates that are trying to flip PA state legislative seats blue for the first time in years! The educators and parents on WE's Political Committee sat down to talk to many of them about their political beliefs concerning education, and we are happy to ask you to vote for the following candidates:

-Mike Doyle (170th Pennsylvania House District)

-Elizabeth Fiedler (184th Pennsylvania House District)

-Joe Hohenstein (177th Pennsylvania House District)

-Mary Isaacson (175th Pennsylvania House District)

-Chris Rabb (200th Pennsylvania House District)

-James Roebuck (188th Pennsylvania House District)

-Kristin Seale (168th Pennsylvania House District)

Want to see how Philly educators will be spending their time to get out the vote? Last year we encouraged PFT members and our allies to run to be committee people, the very backbone of the Philadelphia Democratic establishment. Committee people are responsible for turning out the vote, but that also means they have the power to vote for candidates that are committed to public education. And WE won big! 

Here is how some of our members are flexing their newfound political muscle:

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Why Would the GOP Attack A Philly Teacher?

Two weeks ago, the chair of the Pennsylvania Republican Party made an unsubstantiated attack on Central High School History Teacher Tom Quinn.

His claim? That Tom was attempting the "liberal indoctrination" of his students.

The evidence? A grainy single photograph of a flyer that Quinn was accused of distributing. 

The district did its due diligence investigating the "incident," and now Quinn is finally free to set the record straight. In his opinion piece for the Inquirer, he sets the record straight about that supposed flyer and gets to the heart of the attack:


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Philly Youth Vote! Let's get every eligible high school senior to the polls!

See our updated page: Philly Youth VOTE 2020! What would happen if 8,000 Philly teens showed up?


Philly needs to vote! Only 16.74% of eligible city residents showed up at the polls in the last election. A strong turnout of Philly youth and families on Election Day can have a great impact on our city and the state, especially during midterm and primary elections when so few people vote. On November 6th, we will cast ballots for US Congress, Governor, PA Legislators, and other offices. Teachers need to make sure every eligible senior registers to vote AND shows up to the polls. The best civics education is one that shows students they CAN make a difference!

Here's the lesson plan:


NOW - Early September: SIGN UP HERE to spearhead the registration and get-out-the-vote drive at your high school!

We'll send you instructions and voter registration forms to GET EVERY SENIOR TO VOTE!

We'll also connect you with INSPIRE U.S. to facilitate a student leader training with voting pledge cards, stickers, get-out-the-vote (GOTV) mobilizing, and the opportunity for your school to win the Governor's Award for Civic Engagement (Silver for schools that register over 65%, and Gold for over 85% of eligible seniors). 


September 1st - 14th: Register High School Seniors to Vote!

Recruit a team of student leaders. Have them sign with the citywide youth voting campaign Vote That Jawn!

Download a student spreadsheet from SchoolNet and sort by birth date. See download instructions here.

If students will be 18 by November 6th, get them to register now. You can download paper registration forms, or we can pony-mail them to your school. Sign up here with the number of forms you need for your students.

OR, they can register online, but there's an extra step: If they do not have a driver's license or state ID, they must take a photo of their signature and upload it. 

If students don't have a driver's license they can use the last 4 digits of their Social Security Number.

IMPORTANT: Collect the cell phone numbers of students that register. This will be critical for student-led GOTV text messages on Election Day. Bring along these Voter Pledge Cards for students to sign and record contact info. Studies have shown that making a pledge and a plan for voting dramatically increases the likelihood that a voter will turn out.

Discuss the political parties that students can choose to join (or not). A good classroom conversation starter is the I Side With quiz. Make sure students understand how their choice will affect whether they can vote in Pennsylvania's closed primary elections or not.

  • Registered Republicans and Democrats can vote for their party's candidates in the primary.
  • "No affiliation" or "Other" (minor party) registrants cannot vote for candidates in the primary, only ballot questions.

See if Parents and Families Need to Register too. Here are downloadable paper forms in 12 languages you can send home with students:


September 15th-October 1st: Hand Deliver or Mail Paper Registration Forms  

Deadline Alert: Registration forms must be received by the Voter Registration Office by October 9th, so mail in plenty of time to get there.

Forms can be hand delivered from 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM, Monday to Friday:

The Philadelphia Voter Registration Office, 520 N. Columbus Blvd, 5th Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19123

The Philadelphia County Board of Elections, Room 142 City Hall, Philadelphia, PA 19107

It takes about 2 weeks for the City Commissioners office to process registrations forms. Have students confirm their voter application status to make sure their registration is complete and correct.


October: Research the ballot and candidates with your students.

Start with these nonpartisan resources:

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


October 29th - November 5th: Have Students Find Their Polling Places.

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


November 6th: Election Day - Get Out The Vote!

Remind students to get to the polls and to go as a family! One proven way to improve voter turnout is to send students a text message on election day! 

First-time voters must show a photo or non-photo ID at the polling place. Acceptable forms of ID.


November 7th - Look at the election returns with your students!

Did we make a difference?


Other contacts to help with Voter Registration in Schools:

City Commissioners Lisa Deeley and Al Schmidt will both come to schools with voting booths for nonpartisan assemblies about elections and voting. They'll even run your student council elections!

Inspire U.S.  - Working in schools to develop student-led teams to register their peers and get them to vote. Participating students and schools are eligible to win the Governor's Civic Engagement Award.

SEAMAAC Hip Hip Heritage program will visit high schools does voter registration and GOTV assemblies. Contact Andy Toy.

State Representative Chris Rabb has offered to visit schools for nonpartisan voter advocacy. He's also proposed a voting rights bill that would allow 16 & 17 year-olds to preregister! Call or text his cell: 717-512-5310

Youth United for Change VOTA! registration campaign

Vote That Jawn! - A citywide teen voter registration campaign. Form teams and register for the September 22nd 2-4pm kickoff event! Contact Lorene Cary.

Committee of Seventy Election Ambassador Corps recruits high school students to volunteer as nonpartisan poll watchers on Election Day. Students can earn community service hours and learn about the electoral process.

Just Act, Go Vote: A People's Jam on Justice - An arts event to register young people to vote: September 17, 6:30pm. Register Here.


Do you have other ideas or resources to get the student and family vote out? Send an email to Tom Quinn.


Join Working Educators at Berks Family Detention Center this Sunday

Philly educators are heading to Berks Family Detention Center on Sunday 7/15! We will be joining the Shut Down Berks Coalition and Pennsylvanians from across the state to demand that Governor Wolf SHUT DOWN BERKS!

The Berks Family Detention Center in Berks County is one of 3 family detention centers in the entire country (and the only one outside of Texas), and has a proven history of abuse towards immigrants and children. Most recently, Berks has been in the news for denying a donation of bilingual children's books from a Mighty Writers summer program.

Governor Wolf has the power to issue an Emergency Removal Order and shut down the facility, but he has continued to make excuses instead of taking action. As educators and families, we cannot stand by while our state is complicit in abuses towards students and families... 

Vigil to #ShutDownBerks Family Detention Center

Sunday, July 15th 3:30pm

1040 Berks Road, Leesport, PA 19533

Many educators will be driving from the Philadelphia area, and we invite you to join us. Rides are available with educators in the area! Contact Kate (kateatkinsjc@gmail.com) to arrange a ride, or for any questions. 

Can't make it Sunday? You can still support!

1. Call Governor Wolf's office ASAP at (717-787-2500) to say: "Protecting Immigrant Families is the right thing to do. You absolutely have the power Issue an Emergency Removal Order on the Berks County Detention Center. Issue the ERO now!" 

2. Follow the Shut Down Berks Coalition on facebook and twitter to support the campaign.



Demand for Black Educators: Public Letter to the New School Board

Black Educator Pushout Ends Now! Hire More Black Educators in our Schools.

The Racial Justice Committee of the Caucus of Working Educators has released a public letter to the new School Board in Philadelphia. The letter details the need for Black Educators in Philly's schools, and substantive steps that the School District can take to recruit, hire, retain, and support Black Educators.

Please see below to read the full letter and solutions, or download a copy at this link.

Over a dozen education and community organizations have signed on to support the letter, as well as many more individuals. If you would like to join this campaign or sign on to the letter, please contact the Racial Justice committee at contact@workingeducators.org.

This past Monday July 9th, WE Racial Justice Committee leader Angela Crawford presented the letter and solutions at the first meeting of the new school board. Watch her speech below:

(Looking for more on this campaign? Watch the video of our campaign kick-off panel and conversation at CCP!)

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WE've Been Making Bold Moves. Join Us!

by Kathleen Melville and Tasaday Messina

WE have been making some bold moves lately - shutting down a City Council hearing to call attention to dangerous conditions in our schools, protesting the “phase-out” of Strawberry Mansion, and demanding that the rich pay their fair share to fund Philly schools. We do this because our students deserve much better than crumbling buildings and understaffed schools. And we do this because it works.

This past week, in response to growing pressure from Philly education advocates, Governor Wolf announced an additional $15 million to repair Philly schools. He also called for a major change in state education funding that would increase equity and bring more money to urban districts like Philadelphia.

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#BecauseOfMyUnion: Why are you "Union Proud"?

Yesterday when the Supreme Court of the United States reached its decision in the Janus v. AFCSME case, I know many of us immediately thought of what this would mean for the PFT. I reflected on all the times the union has made it possible for me to do my job in an ethical manner, as well as all the times the union has helped me take care of my family.  

As we do with many of the privileges we live with daily, we can tend to take our union for granted. As we reach out to each other and our colleagues to help each other and our union get through this dangerous time, let’s think about all the large and small ways our union makes our lives better. 

Let’s communicate to our colleagues and to each other--as well as all the anti-unionists--why we love and will stand by our union. Think of all the benefits that we and our students reap from our union membership.

Please use the hashtag #BecauseOfMyUnion to herald all the large and small ways that belonging to a union makes our work possible and our lives better.

I posted a couple of my tweets below as examples. Be creative-- #PhlEd staff are great at that!  

A few more examples:

I know that #BecauseOfMyUnion I don’t have to worry about being able to afford my child’s medication. #PhlED @PFTLocal3

It’s #BecauseOfMyUnion that I can take time to be with my ill parents without fear of losing my job.  #PhlED @PFTLocal3

Those of us who believe strongly that Unions help affirm the dignity and humanity of workers realize we need to stick with our union and help educate our colleagues about the value of Union membership. Of course, personal conversations and deep organizing will be our main work in stopping this attack on our union, but use of this hashtag can help us start those important conversations.


Written by Kristin Luebbert (@teacherinphilly), veteran Philadelphia educator and building rep (and also the primary voice behind the @CaucusofWE twitter account!).


Rally Against Racism at Cinemark: Racial Justice Must be at the Center

The Caucus of Working Educators centers the work of racial justice in our organizing and building power in our union, schools, and city.  On June 22, employees of the Cinemark 6 at 40th and Walnut Streets and Philadelphia police officers confronted Caucus Co-Chair Ismael Jimenez, his wife Ashley Jimenez, and their family.  This encounter demonstrated the deep roots of racism through unnecessary use of law enforcement.  

As the statement from the Caucus committee, Building Anti Racist White Educators, says below, “instead of de-escalation and fair treatment, [the Jimenez’s] were subject to an escalation of tension based on racist projections that they were somehow a threat...As educators, we see this type of escalation occur frequently in our school district that serves mostly black and brown children...we must work to unlearn the social norms that led to the police being called on parents who should have just been allowed to get their children from the theater.” 

Ismael and Ashley write that their experience was a “microcosm of the Black experience of men, women, and children throughout America.  They continue: “Historically and presently, white America uses authority derived from the state to maintain control through policing

of Black lives. Recent incidents throughout America, from the disruption of a family barbeque in Oakland, to the arrest of two Black men from a Starbucks in Philadelphia, demonstrate an unreconciled contradiction regarding race in our society. By simply not being willing to be intimidated or afraid, we were perceived as needing to be put in our place. The calling of the police simply for refusing to leave without retrieving our children from the theater was a complete affront to our human dignity, not only as Black people but as parents. We have a responsibility to stand firm - individually and collectively - against injustice perpetrated against Black people.”


Read the full statement and demands here

Members of the Caucus, Teacher Action Group - Philadelphia, and Black Lives Matter - Philadelphia, will stand with the Jimenez family at a rally and press conference outside the theatre on Friday, June 29 at 10am.

Share the news about this action here.

Read more in the Philadelphia Inquirer, and at Philly Voice, the Root, and Fox 29.


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