With the Democratic Party primary election approaching fast on May 19th, Philly educators are working with their communities to help elect candidates who support pubic education. We wanted to share two examples of this with you. If you are able, we'd like you to be a part of these events. We also hope these will spark ideas about how you will plan to get out the vote in your own school neighborhoods.
The final full week of the campaign is the last chance to spend quality time talking to voters before heading into a full on Get Out the Vote operation in the last weekend before Election Day on May 19th. This is an important time to canvass, give out information, or hold neighborhood meetings to support the candidates. The school community at Stephen Girard Elementary is planning to do all three.
Caucus Member Tom Hladczuk has been working on canvassing plans with his colleagues at Girard Elementary. Those colleagues include Girard volunteer and Action United activist Wilma Frazier. Wilma reached out to her pastor at St. Barnabas church, Allen Jenkins Jr. to take part in the planning. The results were three events on three consecutive days:
- On Monday, May 11th starting at 3:30, the Girard school community will canvass the neighborhood for James Kenney and Helen Gym.
- On Tuesday morning, Girard staff will be out in the neighborhood before school handing out flyers to community members inviting them to a meeting at St. Barnabas the next day.
- Pastor Jenkins is also inviting his congregants to the meeting, where community stakeholders will discuss why James Kenney and Helen Gym are the two best candidates for their school and neighborhood and how everyone can help them win. If you'd like to attend the meeting, come to St. Barnabas Church at 1814 Wharton St. on Wednesday, May 13th, at 6 PM!
The final days of the election must be focused on Get Out the Vote operations. There are two goals. First, let as many people as possible know that election day is upon us. Second, check in with everyone you can and make sure they're voting!
WE member Tom Quinn designed a flyer for our endorsed candidates. We'll tackle the first goal by canvassing one of the largest events that weekend, the Italian Market Festival. We'll meet at noon on Sunday, May 17th. Point people will give out stacks of flyers to volunteers at 9th & Christian and 9th & Washington. We'll flyer the whole crowd and eat some incredible food afterwards. WE members and friends will also distribute the flyer in our school and home neighborhoods, as well as farmers' markets, stores, and other popular areas before Election Day. We encourage you to download the flyer, make copies, and help us spread the word!
The second goal, getting people out to vote, can best be achieved by working with the campaigns and their GOTV operations. Our four endorsed candidates have all run terrific campaigns. They have detailed records and plans on who to reach out to, but they can't do all that they want to without much needed volunteers. Follow the links below to offer your help. There has been a lot of money thrown around in this race, but far more valuable than all those commercials are dedicated people who are motivated to make change happen. Talk with your colleagues, work with your community, reach out to the campaigns, and let's GET OUT THE VOTE!
Caucus member Sherrie Cohen has been a very supportive and approachable presence at many WE (and TAG) events. Sherrie's parents were icons in fighting for social justice in Philly and Sherrie honors them each day. Sherrie's work as an attorney representing vulnerable tenants against exploitation from landlords has prepared her well for her legislative plans to foster development without displacement and keep families in their neighborhoods. She has a strong record of fighting for essential public services and spaces for our families, a highlight being when she successfully kept the city from closing 11 Free Libraries. As she showed on countless occasions including marching on 4/15, Sherrie has been a dedicated advocate for a living wage for all workers. Sherrie is the first out and proud LGBT candidate to be endorsed by the Democratic Party in Philadelphia. We are thrilled to help Sherrie make history and take the next step in her lifelong fight for equality for all this November.
As the former aide and special counsel to longtime City Councilwoman Marian Tasco, Derek Green gained a lot of valuable experience working in City Hall. Derek is seeking a spot on Council to fight for the rights and careers of hardworking lifelong teachers like his retired mother Anita. Derek also experienced first hand how much our students need and deserve by teaching part time at Olney High while attending Temple Law School. Through raising their autistic son Julian with his wife Sheila, Derek has been very interested and invested in helping our students with special needs. Derek has been an important part of many civic associations and looks to continue that advocacy work by making the crucial issues around the Black Lives Matter movement a big part of his work at City Hall. We were very impressed by Derek's commitment to many issues that mattered to us most and the wide range of support his campaign is building across the city. Derek is more than ready to make an important contribution to City Council and we look forward to helping him get there.
A former public school teacher at Lowell Elementary, Helen Gym has continued to honor the work of her colleagues and the parents of her students through her own work on behalf of families in Philadelphia. An incredible communicator, there is no candidate running for any office in this primary who can make a more dynamic case for what our students and families must have than Helen. She has a deep appreciation for what public spaces like schools, libraries, parks, and Rec centers did for her growing up. As she has raised her own children in our public schools, she has been one of our city's greatest champions in fighting back against the chronic neglect of the public spaces and the absence of vital resources our students deserve. Through her tremendous organizing work with Asian Americans United and Parents United for Public Education, Helen has been an inspiring example of what coordinated, cooperative activism within our communities can do to energize and revitalize our city. We know there would be no greater advocate for our families in City Hall than Helen Gym.
Caucus members have been very interested in the City Council primary election this year. We heard from the at-large candidates at our PFT political forum and had additional questions we wanted to personally ask the candidates. WE's Political Secretary Luigi Borda invited several of them to the first of our monthly "Teacher's Lounge" happy hours. The candidates who could be there participated in wide ranging interviews with members of the WE political committee (consisting of active and retired educators, along with parents) and spent a lot of time in between talking with the crowd of public education supporters. After much deliberation, the Political Committee decided on these three candidates.
Stay tuned for news about future events, especially as caucus members and supporters of our candidates prepare for a massive canvass of this year's Broad Street Run!
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.
Want to get more involved in WE's political work to stand up for public education this election? Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more ways to get involved.
(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!
- Tuesday, 3/3 - PennFuture Next Great City's Mayoral Candidates Forum // 6 PM // Pennsylvania Convention Center, 1101 Arch Street
- 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
- Wednesday, 4/1 - PACDC Mayoral Forum for Equitable Development // 5:30 PM // Temple University's SERC - 12th & Berks
- 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.
April 20 Last day for voters to REGISTER before the primary
May 19 MUNICIPAL PRIMARY!
Don't forget to sign up to attend a political forum, so that we can keep in touch!
(WE Political Committee members Luigi Borda and George Bezanis talk public education with Mayoral Candidate Jim Kenney at a WE Happy Hour)
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.”
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.
The Steering Committee
Caucus of Working Educators
Philadelphia Federation of Teachers
- 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 email@example.com or call at 570-854-0499 to coordinate plans with the Wolf Campaign.
NE Philly8566 Bustleton AveNW Philly (Germantown)5537 Germantown Aveand 5730 Greene St.
South PhillySheet Metal Workers Local 191301 Columbus BlvdWest Philly4153 Lancaster Ave
- 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!
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!
- 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.
- 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.