Regarding the Confirmation of Betsy DeVos

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The Caucus of Working Educators recognizes the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as an unparalleled attack on public education. Her lack of qualifications -- or basic understanding of the position -- is widely recognized, and it is clear that she would never have been appointed were she not rich, white, and well-connected.

Simply stated, DeVos does not believe in public education. Her support for “choice” is a sham that masks the actual consequences of her agenda: the large-scale dismantling of America’s promise to provide education to all its children. As Arne Duncan showed with Race to the Top, the Secretary of Education has wide abilities to shape education policy even in areas that are supposedly left up to states. Even if she is not successful in implementing some of her more dangerous ideas, the Secretary will cause irreversible harm to students by failing to protect them from civil rights violations, neglect of legally mandated services, sexual assault, and more.

We are heartened by the show of solidarity against DeVos from across the political spectrum. The unprecedented opposition shows that the public understands that the stakes here are dire. But, while we are proud to protest this cabinet pick alongside 50 senators and hundreds of thousands of protesters, we cannot ignore a fundamental truth: DeVos is not an anomaly, but the result of a decade-long assault on public education.

We cannot forget that many of the same senators who voted against DeVos have also eagerly endorsed some of her policies. Education “reformers,” Democrats and Republicans alike, have championed anti-public school and anti-union actions disguised as “choice.” Celebrity pundits and policy hucksters have sold much of the country on the idea that public schools -- the backbone of our nation, which DeVos derides as “government schools” -- are irrevocably broken.

These ideas are not just misguided, they are actively harmful to schools, cities, and most importantly children. The policies they promote are a drain on public education, driving defunding, segregation, and disempowerment of communities.

Strong unions should be a firewall against a DeVos, but Republicans and Democrats both have worked tirelessly to make sure teachers and schools are divided, disempowered, and disillusioned.

The good news is that in Philadelphia, we’ve been dealing with reckless reformers financed by out-of-town billionaires for a long time. Here is how to take up the fight:

Step 1: Organize schools and communities

The Caucus of Working Educators has stood proudly with parents, students, and community members to resist privatization, defunding, and other flawed reforms that fail to support our students and communities. If Secretary DeVos thinks she can quietly rip the guts out of our federal protections for students in need, we will be there to raise the alarm and resist together.

Step 2: Band together in solidarity with other resisting groups

Through our Black Lives Matter week of action and support for groups such as Fight for 15, we rebuild and reaffirm the bond between labor, racial, and economic justice.

Step 3: Hold elected officials accountable, and run our people for office

The Caucus of Working Educators hit the streets and phones for candidates like Helen Gym and Governor Tom Wolf, both of whom have been strong advocates for public schools and will continue to protect our city and state in the face of potentially devastating national legislation.

Step 4: Position ourselves as leaders in the resistance against Trump

President Trump’s White Nationalist movement brought us DeVos, and will continue to hurt our kids and our schools. We must work to resist the agenda in all its forms, and thereby tap into the new wave of activism.

 

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Remind Mayor Kenney: Stand up to Comcast against Wage Discrimination!

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Comcast has been bullying our mayor. Recently, the corporation threatened to sue if Mayor Kenney does not veto a bill that passed unanimously through City Council. The bill, which aims to prevent wage discrimination against women and minorities, would prohibit employers from asking applicants about their previous salaries.

Why is Comcast so aggressively opposing the bill? Because basing compensation on previous salaries allows companies to pay women and minorities less than their white male counterparts. Women, and especially women of color, are often paid less in their first jobs, which sets them up for a lifetime of lower pay. As a result, women are paid 80% of what men are paid on average in the United States.

In the name of economic development, Philadelphians have already sacrificed a lot in order to make Comcast feel welcome in our city. Taxpayers provided over $40 million in state grants to subsidize the Comcast Center; we give up millions in revenue each year in the form of tax abatement; and, we pay more for our cable TV than Comcast customers in other cities. Our city has bent over backwards to protect Comcast’s bottom line.

Perhaps this is why Comcast feels so comfortable telling our mayor what to do.

Now is the time for Mayor Kenney to send a clear message to his corporate bully by signing the wage discrimination bill into law. He has until January 26th to make his decision.

While Kenney has a solid history of sticking up for workers, he may need some encouragement to stand up to Comcast. We need to remind him of his responsibility to protect workers from discrimination and protect our city from corporate greed.

You can email (james.kenney@phila.gov), tweet (@PhillyMayor), or call (215-686-2181) to let him know that teachers are paying attention and that we expect him to stand up for Philly’s workers.

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Get ELECTED: Run our schools, Run our city, Run for office!

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There's no better way to welcome in 2017 than by committing to be part of the political change we are seeking to effect within the district, the city, and the state. 

This week, the Caucus of Working Educators Political Committee will be launching its year-long drive to get Philly educators and our allies to commit to running for Democratic Committee Person in the 2018 Primaries, so that we can start influencing how our schools are run by infiltrating the gears of the Political Machine that runs Philly.

These are 4-year elected positions that do not involve a lot of time but are integral to making the city function. All that you need to do in order to run is live in the City of Philadelphia. We will help you do the rest and get your name on the ballot!

It's time we STOPPED electing politicians who simply pay us lip service and time we started voting for OURSELVES.

IT'S TIME TO START FLEXING OUR TRUE POLITICAL MUSCLE.

Please take a moment to fill in the following survey so that, together, we can be the change we seek: https://goo.gl/DZ05eh

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WE will be organizing

It has always been a mission of the Caucus of Working Educators to stand for social justice both in public education as well as the larger community.  In spite of the surprising news that came with yesterday’s election results, we remain steadfast in our mission.

organize-resist-anonymous-revolt-communism-che-guevara-acab-revolution-t-shirt-21ac8e1627049c8d0d9d0c32549adead.jpgWE will fight for the rights of unions to exist and for workers to fight for fair salaries and working conditions.  WE will continue to oppose the school-to-prison pipeline.  WE will stand with our immigrant students, and respect their rights to a decent education and livelihood.  WE will demand that our students are free from violence in their schools and in the communities where they live.  WE will fight to have our LGBTQ student population’s rights and dignity respected.  WE will ensure that students of color receive equal treatment to their white peers.

WE will continue to fight for educational and socioeconomic justice within and beyond our school walls.  WE will never tolerate anything less than what is best for our students, our city, and our profession.

No matter what comes, WE will be right here. WE will be organizing.

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Here's what "Down Ticket" Means and Why it Matters in PA

Three weeks away from election day, virtually every major poll has both the state of Pennsylvania and the country as a whole going Democrat for the presidential election.

In response to this, many potential voters and volunteers are asking: Does my effort really matter this year? This presidential election season has been exceptionally contentious. And many voters have mixed feelings about even heading to the polls after such a contentious primary season.

However, to focus exclusively on the presidential election ignores the vast majority of seats, and political realities, that will be decided on November 8th. Even though the national race grabs media attention -- it is the local races that need you to turn out and vote!  

Here are just a few “down ticket” races in around the city and state that will be decided by handfuls of votes:

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One Request of New SRC Candidates: Dissolve!

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.

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When does 4 + 1 = 6?: When Combs replaces a republican on City Council

ggroup.jpgIn the November election, Philadelphia voters can choose five candidates for City Council At-Large. Five candidates will be elected from the Democratic Party. In addition, the two highest vote-getters from all other minority political parties will also be elected and take their place on City Council. Traditionally, that has always been two Republicans.

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On November 3rd, instead of using all five votes for Democrats (who are virtually certain to be elected), vote for Kristin Combs -- public school teacher running for an at-large seat on Philadelphia's City Council with the Green Party.

The goal is for one of the minority party seats to instead go to the Green Party and bring a much needed progressive agenda to City Council.  Five democrats and one green will help move Council to the left on a variety of issues affecting working people across Philadelphia.

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Combs' platform includes fully funded public schools, local school control, charter school reform, an end to school closings, restorative justice, a living wage, paid sick leave, collective bargaining rights for all workers, fully funded pensions, an end to private outsourcing of public sector jobs, and an end to corporate welfare.  For more information:

                                                                          Website - http://www.combs4citycouncil.com/

 

 

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PFT Leadership Fails to Endorse Teacher for City Council

On Tuesday, September 29th, the PFT leadership voted against the endorsement of public school teacher and PFT member, Kristin Combs, who is running for an at-large seat on city council as a Green Party candidate.  

Comb.Collings.Muhammad.jpgIn rejecting one of their own members, the PFT leadership failed to endorse the only teacher candidate running on a strong education and labor platform.Combs' platform includes fully funded public schools, local school control, charter school reform, an end to school closings, restorative justice, a living wage, paid sick leave, collective bargaining rights for all workers, fully funded pensions, an end to private outsourcing of public sector jobs, and an end to corporate welfare. The Caucus of Working Educators is outraged that such a strong teacher leader would not receive the endorsement of the current PFT leadership.

Rather than support a teacher whose campaign is dedicated to creating the schools Philadelphia’s children deserve, the PFT leadership instead voted to endorse an Independent with no labor support, as well as a Republican who pledges to maintain the SRC as-is.

The responsible thing  – both for its own members, as well as for the future of public education in Philadelphia – would have been for the PFT to endorse Combs’ candidacy.

The PFT leadership failed its members by their refusal to endorseCombs’ for city council.  As members of the PFT, the Caucus of Working Educators is organizing to enhance, not ignore, teacher leadership. We vehemently reject this decision and proudly support Kristin Combs for city council.

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Vote Philly! Public Schools Need Youth and Families to Vote! - Register to Vote Online Now!

Registering Students & Parents to VoteA 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 3rd, we will cast ballots for Mayor, City Council, and the important Pennsylvania Supreme Court seats that could decide the balance of the court and the future of public education in Pennsylvania.

1. Register High School Seniors to Vote: CLICK HERE!Pennsylvanians can now register online!!!

If students will be 18 by November 3rd, get them to register now. They can do it on a smart phones! The deadline to register to vote is always 30 days before the election (October 5th, 2015).

If you prefer to use paper registration forms, contact tquinn6935@gmail.com with the number of forms you need for your students. We will send the forms to you via school district pony mail.

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2. Research the ballot with your students.

Start with these nonpartisan resources:

-Committee of Seventy

-Philadelphia City Commissioners

-Ballotpedia

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

3. 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 to college in the fall.

4. Election Day!

Remind students to get to the polls and to go as a family!

First-time voters must show a photo ID at the polling place.

 

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Working Educators Endorse Kristin Combs, Philly Teacher, for City Council

[Update: Meet Kristin and learn more about her platform and campaign strategy at a House Party Meet & Greet in Germantown on Saturday, Oct. 3 (6-7:30pm) hosted by WE member Kelley CollingsClick here for more info & to RSVP]

IMG_20150919_125512.jpgThe Caucus of Working Educators has endorsed Kristin Combs, Green Party candidate, for Philadelphia City Council At-Large. 

An active member of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, and the PFT's Caucus of Working Educators, Kristin is a dedicated teacher at Penn Treaty High School.

"Working alongside Ms. Combs in a school that had a unique set of challenges, I watched how she committed to her students on both academic and personal levels. There really wasn't anything she was unwilling to do to ensure that students had all of the opportunities they needed to reach their fullest potential. Adding that she is an active participant in a variety of educator and community groups demonstrates her commitment to doing all that she can do to make the world a better place for under served populations," said Regina Hastings, a colleague of Kristin's at Penn Treaty.

Kristin motivation for running is centered in having experienced the worst of how are students have been neglected, having previously taught at Vaux High School, before it was closed by the SRC along with 23 other schools in 2013.

She has vowed to take a teacher's salary if elected and donate the rest of her salary to organizations committed to helping our public school students.

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Kristin's advocacy for her students and their families has also been apparent in her campaign being involved in many actions for raising the minimum wage and unionizing workers.

"Green Party candidate Kristin Combs is the only candidate running for City Council who has pledged to take a worker's wage and immediately introduce binding legislation for a $15 minimum wage in Philadelphia. Unchallenged one-party rule has produced the poorest large city in America. From Seattle to Philly, we need independent working class politicians willing to take on big business and Harrisburg," said Kate Goodman, lead organizer for 15 Now Philadelphia.

Another key piece of Kristin's platform is spreading awareness and strongly defending parents' right to opt out of the harm of standardized testing she has seen first hand. Kristin is leading by example and teaching everyone about the kind of well rounded education that all of our students need and deserve.

"As an educator, Kristin Combs knows standardized test scores are not a true measure of a student's intellectual ability. An advocate for engaging, challenging, student-centered teaching Kristin forged a close working relationship with Opt Out Philly over the past year. I've been impressed by Kristin's dedication to ensuring parents are aware of their legal rights to opt their children out of standardized tests. Because of Kristin's activism and her commitment to creative, innovative approaches to learning, I am proud to support her run for City Council." said Alison McDowell from the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools.

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In the November election, Philadelphia voters can choose five candidates for City Council At-Large. Five candidates will be elected from the Democratic Party. In addition, the two highest vote-getters from all other minority political parties will also be elected and take their place on City Council. Traditionally, that has always been two Republicans.

Instead of using all five votes for Democrats (who are virtually certain to be elected), Kristin is asking for one of your five votes on November 4th. The goal is for one of these minority party seats to instead go to the Green Party and help build a much needed third party movement in our city. 

Working Educators has already endorsed two strong education advocates for City Council At-Large in Derek Green and Helen Gym. We hope you will support a third very worthy advocate for us all by voting for and helping to elect teacher and PFT member Kristin Combs for City Council At-Large!

Connect with the Combs 4 City Council Campaign:

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