For 15 years, Philadelphia schools have been run by an unaccountable, undemocratic, unpopular, and unsuccessful administration – the School Reform Commission.
Last year, more than 75% of Philadelphia voters approved a referendum to abolish the SRC. Why? Perhaps because the SRC’s history is plagued by corruption, unconstitutional acts, disrespect for its own employees and students, and utter inefficacy. The ongoing, state-generated budget crisis should put to rest any argument that continuing to give away control of our school district will somehow increase our access to state funding.
The only legally realistic path for the abolition of the SRC is for it to vote to disband itself. The current members have been unwilling to do so. However, the pending resignations of Commissioners Neff and Houstoun, and the upcoming end of term for Commissioner Simms, creates an opportunity for Mayor Kenney and Governor Wolf to appoint a majority who will vote to disband the SRC.Read more
Last week, the PFT members at Central High School - regardless of caucus affiliation - embarked upon a letter-writing campaign that we hope will set in motion a movement that will be replicated throughout the district. The action itself is a symbol of solidarity designed to urge the School District of Philadelphia to resume contract negotiation talks with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.
The idea was the brainchild of Erica Catlin, a caucus member and English teacher at Central:
This message is from Anissa Weinraub, a teacher at the Academy at Palumbo.
Attention All PFT members: Our PSERS pension is funding the violation of human rights, Native American land rights, and the potential poisoning of our national water supply. Here's how to tell PSERS to divest from the Dakota Access Pipeline:Read more
Join the Caucus of Working Educators and Philly educators for a trip to the hottest ticket since Hamilton! Travel with us on Saturday, October 22nd to Washington D.C. to see the brand-new Smithsonian museum dedicated to the documentation of African American life, history, and culture!
Some of the exhibits at the NMAAHC include items owned by Harriet Tubman, the glass-topped casket used for Emmett Till’s viewing (a courageous choice by his mother to highlight the brutality, illegality, and immorality of lynching), and a dress Rosa Parks was sewing the day she refuse to comply with racist Jim Crow laws. These are just a few of the more than 36,000 artifacts collected by the museum.
The Caucus has managed to get 50 tickets to this important new museum for Saturday October 22, 2016. Join us for a bus trip down to D.C. We will leave MLK High School at 8:00 AM and return at 6:00 PM. Tickets are $40.00 and include a boxed lunch. Children under 11 are free (limit is two children per paying adult).
Tickets are first come, first served. To reserve your ticket for this event call or email the following Caucus members:
Tamara Anderson: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ismael Jimenez: email@example.com
Tasha Russell: 267-844-1674
Thanks to all who turned out for the Labor Day rally and parade this morning on Columbus Boulevard. Rank and file members were out in force, alongside union members from all over the city and region.
During the rally, PFT president Jerry Jordan called on our union brothers and sisters for solidarity and support as Philadelphia educators enter their fourth year without a contract. The Caucus of Working Educators was happy to echo this statement with a banner dropped along the parade route.
As we enter a new school year, do not let our contract battle stay invisible. Share this message with your families, neighbors, networks, and communities. Let them know that we are showing up to school every day despite years of wage freezes, disastrous outsourcing, and continued disrespect on the part of our employer, the School District Philadelphia.
No PFT Contract
Still Here for Philly kids!
Parents and students are the most important allies that teachers’ unions must embrace to secure a strong contract and better education for children.
Families see a site for just the few years that children attend a school, and many misunderstand the gradual return of some staff over the past few years as improvement, without seeing the net loss over the longer term. We still have not returned to pre-2013 levels of funding and staffing, and we cannot allow the lingering “Doomsday Budget” to become the “new normal.”
Parents need the constant reminder that educators’ working conditions are their children’s learning conditions, and once a year we have the opportunity to build solidarity with thousands of families across the city: Back To School Night!
So... Get A Rally Going At Your Back To School Night!
For the past two years, staff at several schools have hit the pavement with signs, flyers, chalk, and political theater before BTSN with a great response from parents and the press. We need to take our message city-wide this year! It will look different at every school, but here are some tips:
- Mobilize your comrades on staff to take action. Here’s a sample mailbox flyer to download and edit.
- Stage your rally immediately before your official BTSN start time when parents are arriving.
- Build solidarity with your parents by contacting your Home & School Association or key parent leaders in advance and ask for their support in raising awareness. Invite parents to come early and join educators outside the school before the official BTSN begins.
- Get the real numbers affecting your school, and don’t just include your pay and benefits. Be sure to highlight the direct impact that cuts and freezes have on kids: Larger class-sizes, lost programs, no library, fewer counselors, part-time nurse, old textbooks, broken furniture, dirty classrooms, deferred maintenance, no NTA’s, cuts in total budget, cuts in per-pupil spending. Ask your principal for some of these numbers.
- Make a leaflet to hand out. Include those numbers, and links for families to get involved in the struggle! Here’s an example leaflet you can copy.
- Turn that leaflet into a press release and send it out. Example press release
- Make signs that parents and students can relate to.
- Sidewalk chalk your messages near the entrance.
- Translate materials into the languages that your families speak.
- Create theater and symbolic displays that drive home the impact of cuts. In the past, staff have brought out student desks to show what a 59-student classroom looks like, set up displays of battered old textbooks, staged a bookselling of Driven By Data books, and collected supply donations from parents.
- Make a What’s NOT Back To School banner
- If your principal is sympathetic, ask her to join you, and see if some staff can remain outside for a short time after the start of BTSN, and plan for some parents to stay outside to continue the message.
- Take Photos and share your action
- Once inside, continue the conversation as much as possible. Add a slide to your back to school night presentation about how budget cuts are affecting your school this year.
The beginning of the school year is very busy, but colleagues working together can pull together a successful rally very quickly. Central teacher KD Davenport describes how she turned an idea into a hugely successful rally in just a matter of days:
I got an immediate positive response from my colleagues. People were amazing about contributing their gifts: One creative colleague suggested that we line up 59 desks to represent the number of students in an Algebra class; another put together a flier of facts and figures; still others translated that flier into Spanish and Chinese. Once we had a flyer made up, we adapted it into a press
release and sent out a blast via email and Twitter to the media. Word quickly spread and on Back To School Night we were joined by reporters and photographers from NBC 10, ABC 6, The Inquirer, and WHYY Newsworks.
Our PFT building committee was incredibly supportive and publicized the event to the entire staff. Our administration was also on board. Our principal came outside and spoke to the press, and we even got our Alumni and Home and School associations involved. Helen Gym showed up, as did Jerry Jordan. And we did it all in a matter of days!
Go and do it!
Celebrate the end of the third annual Caucus and TAG summer reading series and the beginning of the school year with colleagues, fellow educators, and community members from across the Philadelphia. Invite your coworkers and friends! All are welcome, and childcare is available!
On August 15, the PA Supreme Court made their long-awaited ruling that the School District of Philadelphia could not use Act 46 to cancel the teacher’s contract. This decision was a huge win for the PFT. The membership should thank Jerry Jordan, the other members of the union leadership and the PFT lawyers for their efforts that resulted in this important victory.
Now that we can all breathe a quick sigh of relief, our membership needs to build on the momentum of the court’s decision--and that includes understanding every angle of the decision. As we move into the next phase of our protracted battle with the district, here are 8 questions rank and file educators are asking about the decision:Read more
"Not 1 more..." "DEPORTATION!" On Monday, July 25th, the first day of the DNC, local and national migrant justice groups led a march through South Philly to stop all unjust deportations and detentions. The march was led by Juntos and Not1More, and members of the PFT's Caucus of Working Educators and Philly Local UNITE HERE were there to join them.
Educators around the country have begun to join in this fight against unjust treatment of migrants, including many of our students. Teachers in North Carolina have led a nationwide campaign with support of the NEA to free undocumented high-school students, many who were picked up by immigration officers and sent to detention centers while on their way to school.
In Philly, Working Educators have gathered migrant justice advocates through a summer book club on David Bacon's "Illegal People: How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants". WE has also started a Migrant Justice Group to support groups around the city and work for migrant justice in our schools.
"Illegal People" book club member Ben Miller and his wife Cristina Martinez, co-owners of restaurant South Philly Barbacoa, provided a barbecue lunch for protestors following Tuesday's march. They will also host an unofficial migrant justice party and concert on Thursday, July 27th from 6pm-2am.
If you'd like to get involved in WE's Migrant Justice work, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
As of this Tuesday 7/26, it will be 1,060 days without a contract for the Philadelphia's public school educators. With the Democratic National Convention in town, the eyes of the nation are on Philadelphia. In addition to getting out on the street to make our voices heard and show solidarity with our colleagues in justice, we also have an opportunity to make waves on social media, especially Twitter.
On Tuesday, the convention will focus on issues for communities, children, and families. Let's take this opportunity to highlight the challenges we face daily in #PHLed, especially those that will not be mentioned from the podium at the DNC. To highlight these issues, we'll use the hashtag #InvisibleatDNC.
In these posts, we can highlight our lack of a contract, the crushing impacts of underfunding on our schools, classrooms and students, the undemocratic SRC leadership of the School District of Philadelphia, the impacts of poverty and systemic oppression on our communities, and any other issues that we see, but don't expect to see discussed from the podium.
- You can post on either Twitter or Facebook using the hashtag #InvisibleatDNC
- In addition to writing your own posts, favorite and retweet posts from others on the hashtag.
- Spread the word to other activists, in education and beyond, and invite them to join us.
- In addition to #InvisibleatDNC, use the hashtags #PHLed and #DemsInPhilly.
As a note, it is important to acknowledge that the DNC has chosen to highlight some critical issues we face on Tuesday night, particularly related to racial justice. The Mothers of the Movement will speak, and it is important that we "step back" and support those causes when they come on stage. So as you watch the coverage, pick moments to be positive as well as moments to be critical!
Please use #InvisibleAtDNC to speak to your own concerns, and invite your friends, neighbors, and colleagues to do the same! The work is easy, and will go a long way to making education issues visible during this national event.
Charlie McGeehan, Caucus Member & PFT Building Rep
P.S. Want more DNC action? Come check out caucus members Ismael Jimenez and Tamara Anderson speak truth to power alongside a fabulous set of panelists from around the country tonight at 7PM and tomorrow at 5:30PM.