The WE Guide to Building Power in the 2015 Elections

Working Educators is a group of educators, parents, and communities working to take defense of public education into our own hands. We know what our schools need, and we have the power to stand up for our schools by influencing the upcoming May primary elections for Mayor, City Council, and Judicial seats.

Whether you're new to the political world or an experienced campaigner, we need you! We're hoping to have vocal educators and allies at EVERY candidate forum happening over the next few months. 

Not sure what to say? Don't worry! Below you will find a script our Political Committee has put together that will make every candidate aware of our power. And there are printable copies for all of your friends, too.

You will find a list below of all the forums. Please sign-up for which forum you plan on attending, so that we can make sure all forums are covered and be in touch about strategy.

Sign up here to let us know which forums you plan on attending.

Want to get more involved in WE's political work to stand up for public education this election? Email contact@workingeducators.org for more ways to get involved.

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(WE members pose with Council Candidates Helen Gym and Kristin Combs at a WE Happy Hour)

1) Political Script for Caucus Members

STEP #1: Look up your ward and division for both your home and your school: https://www.pavoterservices.state.pa.us/Pages/PollingPlaceInfo.aspx

And your ward leader: http://www.seventy.org/tools/ward-leaders-committeepeople/democratic-party

STEP #2: Fill out your intro script for your questions:                                  

Hi my name is _______________________ and I am a member of the Caucus of Working Educators, a rank-and-file caucus within the PFT. I am a registered voter in the  __________ Ward, _________ Division. My Ward leader is ________________________. If you are an educator: I also teach at _______________________ , which is in the ___________ Ward, ___________ Division. 

STEP #3: Ask away!

  • Did you attend public school? Do you have any children? Did/Do they attend Philadelphia public, parochial, or charter schools? (Follow up with a why or why not question.)

  • Lack of funding from Harrisburg is a perpetual issue for the district. As the mayor/councilperson, however, you have the power to raise revenues from within Philadelphia itself. How would you go about this? (Follow up with questions about the 10 year tax abatement, PILOT payments from universities, raising the Use and Occupancy tax, Comcast tax breaks, etc.)

  • As you are most likely aware, many teachers – especially younger ones – haven’t been given their contractual step raises for nearly 3 years now. How would you help solve the contract impasse between the PFT and the District? How would you help to retain talented teachers within the district? (Follow up with a personal example of how much you have already sacrificed out of your salary.)

  • The mayor has the ability to appoint members to the SRC. Do you have any specific individuals in mind who you would like to see selected for such an important position? (This question would inadvertently gauge if the candidate is aware of the local control issue while also seeing if they personally know any public education advocates within the city.)

  • City council recently passed a resolution unanimously asking for the SRC to examine its use of standardized tests. What role do you believe standardized tests have in measuring the growth of a student? In measuring the effectiveness of a teacher? (This question should be able to tell you how familiar a candidate is with the Opt Out movement. If they aren’t familiar with it, follow up!)

2) Candidate Forums Calendar & Primary Election Timeline

Click here to sign up here to attend a forum (or more than one!). We’ll send a reminder!  

  • Saturday, 3/7 - Working Families Candidate Forum // 10 AM -2 PM // Arch St. United Methodist Church, 55 N. Broad Street
  • Tuesday, 3/10 - Philly ADA Mayoral Forum // 7 - 9 PM // The Friend’s Center (1501 Cherry St. - MLK Room)

March 10       Last day to circulate and file nomination petitions

March 11       First day to circulate and file nomination papers

  • Wednesday, 3/18 - PFT District City Council Candidates (Members only) // 4:15 PM // Sheet Metal Workers' Union Hall, 1301 South Columbus Blvd
  • Wednesday, 3/18  - Food Policy Mayoral Forum // 7 PM  // Free Library Skyline Room, 1901 Vine St.
  • Thursday, 3/19 - Bicycle Coalition Better Mobility Forum // 6 PM // Friends Center (1501 Cherry St)
  • Monday, 3/23 - PFT City Council At-Large Candidates Forum (Members Only) // 4:15 PM // Sheet Metal Workers' Union Hall, 1301 South Columbus Blvd
  • Tuesday, 3/24 - Mayoral Candidates Education Forum (Questions sent in advance) // 6:30 PM // G.W. Childs School, 1599 Wharton St.

March 25         Last day for withdrawal by candidates who filed nomination petitions

  • Monday, 3/30 - - In Conversation with Philadelphia: Al Dia News Mayoral Forum // 5 - 8 PM // 30 S. 15th St., 15th Floor
  • Monday, 4/20 - Philly Tech Week Mayoral Forum // 6 PM // Free Library of Philadelphia, 1901 Vine St.
  • Wednesday, 4/22 - Northern Liberties Mayoral Forum // 7 PM // 841 N. American St.https://ssl.gstatic.com/ui/v1/icons/mail/images/cleardot.gif

April 20       Last day for voters to REGISTER before the primary

May 19            MUNICIPAL PRIMARY!

Click here to download both of these flyers in a printable and shareable format.

 

Don't forget to sign up to attend a political forum, so that we can keep in touch! 

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(WE Political Committee members Luigi Borda and George Bezanis talk public education with Mayoral Candidate Jim Kenney at a WE Happy Hour)

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Where Do The Candidates Stand? A Political Platform for 2015

Elections are upcoming for mayor, city council, and city commissioner in Philadelphia. But where do the candidates stand on education issues?

See our platform items below to get an idea of where the candidates should be. If you are attending any meet and greets or public forums, use these items to get the opinions of those who are running!

 

The Caucus of Working Educators of the PFT believes that ALL Philadelphia school children have the right to a thorough and efficient education. To those ends, WE ask all candidates for public office in Philadelphia to adopt the following platform:

1. Adoption of a fair funding formula that creates equal funding for districts across Pennsylvania, as well as securing of additional revenue sources specifically for Philadelphia. This would include a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) program for institutions of higher education within the city limits, closing tax loopholes for corporations that do business in Philadelphia, as well as state-wide 5% tax on shale drilling, to be split equally between education and public employee pensions state-wide.

2. Restructuring of district debt. In 2015, debt servicing is projected to eat up 9% of the annual budget, or $280 million dollars (http://schoolbudget.phl.io/). Banks must be approached directly to forgive or at least restructure this debt.

3. Local control of our school district, specifically a school board elected by the citizens of Philadelphia.

4. A moratorium on the closing or transitioning of public schools until the district establishes complete financial transparency and oversight for all charter schools.

5. A reduction of the importance of standardized testing, including working to eliminate district-based exams, supporting families that refuse standardized testing for their children, and advocating for the use of multiple measures to evaluate student and school success.

6. Integration of wrap-around services into our schools, including social workers, medical professionals, and universal pre-kindergarten.

7. Equal rights to due process and collective bargaining for all teachers and school staff members across the state, even those in “cities of the first class.”

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Dear Tom Wolf: Advice on Your New Secretary of Education

Dear Mr. Wolf,

The members of PFT's Caucus of WE congratulate you on your election as Governor of Pennsylvania. It was our pleasure to help Get Out the Vote for your election. We look forward to working with you to repair the harm done by the current administration in the last four years and since the economic recession began in 2008.

We hope that you keep a few key criteria in mind when making all of your political appointments. Diversity in terms of geography, race, gender, religion and political leanings should be a priority.  Your cabinet should look like Pennsylvania.  Appointees should be Pennsylvanians with a track record of public service and notable achievements.  They should be highly qualified and bold thinkers. They should be brave enough to advise you from their experience and conscience.  Leaders can only do their best when they surround themselves with people they respect enough to listen to their dissenting opinions.

As professional public school educators and concerned citizens, we take the appointment of the PA Secretary of Education most seriously. Education was the biggest issue in the governor's race and remains a huge challenge for all of us. When your team is vetting prospective appointees, only consider men and women who have actual public school experience. They should be former teachers, administrators, assistant superintendents, and superintendents that have deep roots in Pennsylvania.

Only consider candidates who were educated and received their certifications from legitimate brick and mortar educational institutions. Temple, Penn State, and Pitt, come to mind.  Choose someone who can work with the students, parents, and teachers of Pennsylvania.

We are hungry for a leader who will lead us out of the current educational wasteland to a safe and stable place where students and staff are respected and supported. Seek out a candidate who is erudite, motivated, and compassionate. We do not need more tough talk and threats. We do not need someone who will reduce humans to data points. We need a person who can use both socioeconomic and educational data to create equity of opportunity to all of our students.

Sincerely,

 

The Steering Committee

Caucus of Working Educators

Philadelphia Federation of Teachers

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The Caucus Guide to Getting Out The Vote

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Educators are hard at work at creating plans for how they can help with Get Out The Vote (GOTV) efforts on Election Day. Here are some helpful tips for PFT Members and our community partners:
The Week Before Election Day:
  • Early in the week, talk with your colleagues about how your school can GOTV in your community! Discuss quick points of interest to tell families about what resources have been missing from your school, what is needed, and how voting can help public education and democracy in our city.
  • Make plans for a neighborhood canvass around your building any day before election day.
  • On Wednesday, 10/29, help PCAPS complete their "voter pledge card" campaign by helping them stamp and mail postcards to Philadelphia voters at the Fight for Philly office (846 N. Broad Street)
  • On Thursday, 10/30, participate in a phone bank with PFT members.
  • On Friday, 10/31, hold a special edition of Full Funding Friday urging parents, families, and passersby to GOTV! 
  • Take a moment to do a teach-in with your kids on the importance of voting. Send a letter home encouraging parents to continue the lesson by taking their kids with them to vote on the big day!
  • If you want to do some direct work on your own time, contact Wolf for PA's Regional Director in Philadelphia, Stephen Ekema-Agbaw at stephen@wolfforpa.com or call at  570-854-0499 to coordinate plans with the Wolf Campaign.
The Last Four Days of the Campaign: 
 
The #1 goal for the Wolf For PA campaign is to have as many volunteers as possible to KNOCK ON DOORS!  This is crucial in the all important last four days!  The PFT is hosting one at Lincoln High School on Saturday Nov. 1st -- sign up here to volunteer.
On Election Day:
The Wolf campaign will be hosting Get Out the Vote Door Knocking for unlikely voters at the below locations. There are shifts from 9am-12pm, 12pm-3pm, 3pm-6pm, and 6pm-8pm. Show up at any time to help with canvassing or phone banking.
NE Philly
8566 Bustleton Ave
NW Philly (Germantown)
5537 Germantown Ave
and 5730 Greene St.
South Philly
Sheet Metal Workers Local 19
1301 Columbus Blvd
West Philly
4153 Lancaster Ave
And even if you can't help GOTV:
  • VOTE! Do everything you can to make sure everyone else votes too! Organize and take action! 
  • Post pictures in your WE & PFT shirts! Use the hashtags #WeVoteAskUs and #PFTGOTV
  • If you are not taking a personal day to work the polls, you can still get out during your lunch hour or after school and encourage people to vote.

This post will be continually updated with more opportunities and staging areas. Check back soon! Once again, it is vitally important that people get out there and KNOCK ON DOORS!

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PFT Lobby Day in Harrisburg

 

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!

 

 

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Caucus Canvasses the Broad Street Run

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A few important goals of the Caucus of Working Educators are to encourage and enable fellow PFT members and supporters of public education to be as informed and active as they can be in local politics. We also want to enhance and increase democratic values and actions in our schools, in our union, and all throughout our city. 
We saw the power of democracy in the way Steel Elementary parents overwhelmingly voted to keep their school public, causing Mastery and the School District to concede and respect their wishes. We see it in the way the parents of Munoz-Marin continue to stand up for what it is right, while dealing with some very wrong headed attempts to move the goalposts. We must follow the lead of these two inspiring school communities and continue to build on the example they've set throughout Philadelphia. 
On Sunday, May 4th, the Caucus of Working Educators, inspired by these parents, organized a canvass during the Broad Street. Run. Caucus of WE members and volunteers collected signatures for a ballot initiative asking the public to call upon our state government to abolish the School Reform Commission and return our city's schools to local control. The Caucus of WE has created a document that explains the initiative and gives tips on correctly gathering signatures and getting them properly notarized. Download the PDF here. 
 
This referendum will give Philadelphia voters, whose voices often aren't heard by our appointed SRC, the chance to weigh in on who is running our public schools. Last Sunday, Caucus of WE members and volunteers collected signatures from voters at strategic spots along Broad Street, some of us met and continued near the finish, and then we just kept right on canvassing during our after party in FDR Park. Nearly every voter we encountered was willing to sign.
The form can take a bit of time to fill out, so just as important is using this referendum as a conversation starter to engage, educate, and make a connection with each voter about how our kids are suffering. A few tips on how to do this well:
  • Discuss with them how the SRC has been running our schools for over thirteen years and things just keep getting worse. Make sure they know that many of our kids have no full time nurse, no full time counselor, no school library, no technology class, no music, no art, no books, no supplies, and on and on. Implore them to stay informed, get involved, and take back local control of our city with us.
  • After they've signed, explain that our kids need them working to elect a new governor and advocating for an elected school board. Making that connection with each voter face to face is the true value of this initiative. 
What did we learn from our canvass of the Broad Street Run?
  • Always have voter registration cards handy. If someone tells you they aren't a registered voter, stress the importance of them registering.  
  • You will encounter families and groups, so out of respect for their time, always have two or three clipboards to pass around so that voters can fill it out faster, but make sure to continue to engage the group in the important conversation of local control.
  • It is huge plus to have a friend or two with you. You draw strength from each other, share advice, and it always helps to feel a little less alone. If you know a friend is going to canvass, please try to give them a hand. Being able to work alongside dedicated educators and volunteers on Saturday made the canvass an interesting, entertaining, and empowering experience.
So, what are our next actions?
On Thursday 5/15, we invite you to join members of WE, parents, and principals as we participate in a Lobby Day at City Hall. Working with Education Voters PA, we'll be part of a press conference at 4 PM, focusing on the lack of funding currently in place for our students and the terrible consequences that could come without additional help from our City Council members. We plan to present a vision for what our students truly deserve. Following the press conference, we'll be meeting in groups with our lawmakers, giving them a first hand account of what our kids and families are going through and why additional support is so greatly needed. 
On Friday 5/16, we'll hold our second WE Run Philly Schools rally at School District Headquarters. The first rally in April made a powerful statement, as students, parents, teachers, and supporters of public education ran many laps around the block,. They showed strength and courage as they ran against the widespread neglect that has taken so much from their fellow students. The adults were also a huge help as they ran with them, got them water, and held signs along Broad Street advocating for them. We will have many more students running this month and we need as many supporters as possible to be there to help them. Please consider doing your part to help these wonderful children and families with their efforts.
For information on future events, please sign up for the Caucus of Working Educators e-mail list!
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