Philly Trip to the National Museum of African American History & Culture

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:  moact1973@gmail.com

Ismael Jimenez:  ishx12@gmail.com

Tasha Russell: 267-844-1674

Download the flyer here!

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Racial Justice Statement of the Caucus of Working Educators

The Caucus of Working Educators believes that purposeful action needs to be taken in order to eliminate the adverse outcomes derived from perpetual structural racism evident in public education.

  • WE want public school based policies that resist the criminalization of students of color.
  • WE want curriculum and pedagogy that recognizes the collective contribution of all groups to modern society.
  • WE want a full and fair funding formula that can provide for all of the needs of our students and schools.
  • WE want standardized testing to end and no longer be used as the criteria to shutter schools since these tactics adversely affect low income, Black, and Latino communities.
  • WE want to attract, develop, and retain more teachers of color.

WE are aware of the barriers that all of our students and families face that limit their chances and opportunities to achieve academic success and a positive sustainable quality of life. WE support all organizations and collective work that are against stop and frisk policies, support the fight for fair and safe housing, support a living and sustainable wage for all citizens, and the right for all to have access to affordable and equitable healthcare.

The Caucus of Working Educators believes that this Racial Justice Statement  promotes equity, human life, educational and social justice,  and will develop the necessary knowledge and actions necessary to eliminate the barriers created by prejudice, stereotyping, discrimination and bias  in Philadelphia and beyond.

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Open Letter to DeRay Mckesson on TFA and Racial Justice in Education

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Dear Mr. Mckesson,

As the social justice caucus within the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, we were surprised to see that you are coming to Philadelphia to speak alongside leaders of Teach for America (TFA). The Caucus of Working Educators (WE) is committed to racial justice in our schools and society, and we stand in solidarity with the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

We see Teach for America as working in opposition to the goals of publicly funded education for all students in Philadelphia and to the goal of increasing the number of teachers of color and teachers who are committed to building relationships with communities over the long term, which we see as an integral component of culturally responsive teaching. We view the hiring of cadres of racial, cultural, and geographical outsiders with very little teaching preparation as part of a larger neoliberal effort to privatize education and replace unionized teachers (many of whom are teachers of color) with young, inexperienced teachers (most of whom are white and do not intend to stay in the teaching profession and commit to the long-term improvement of their teaching practice).

This practice of displacing African American teachers, in particular, is already underway. While Philadelphia’s teaching force increased by 13 percent from 2001-2011, the percentage of Black teachers dropped by 19 percent. This has contributed to Philadelphia having the greatest disparity between the race and ethnicity of the student body and those who teach them. Only 31 percent of Philadelphia teachers are of color compared to 86 percent of the student body they are teaching. This is unacceptable.

TFA has ties and parallels with the charter school movement, which we see as undercutting public education. The mass charterization of public neighborhood schools has led to the outsourcing of public school management to private operators. Just weeks ago Philadelphia Public Schools announced yet another wave of school closures and conversions of public schools into charter schools affecting upwards of 5000 students. This is in addition to the 23 public schools that were closed in Philadelphia in 2013.

The decision to turn a district school into a charter is often made by the highest levels of administration without consulting with the school community, including parents, teachers, students, and leaders. Your support of Teach for America represents a support of these same kinds of outsourced and contracted paradigms for educating our children. Rather than hiring experienced professionals that will stay in the profession for a long period of time, Teach for America hires individuals with little or no experience in classroom settings via external channels such as private universities and corporately sponsored recruitment. Teach for America and charter schools both represent a failure of public leadership to lead and create change in our public schools, and prioritize outsourcing teaching and school governance over public responsibility to realize every student’s right to a fully funded, culturally relevant, education in their neighborhood.

Instead, TFA contributes to the dangerous and misleading discourse that claims poverty and structural inequality have little to no impact on educational outcomes. This irresponsible explanation provides Democrats and Republicans alike with a pretext to continue vicious budget cuts to public services and institutions under the guise that “personal responsibility” and “grit” are the main factors in determining a child’s success or failure.

We live and work in state that has the largest funding disparity between wealthy and poor districts and in a city whose externally appointed school governance commission is proposing to continue to close down schools that primarily serve low-income African American families. In Philadelphia where 79 percent of the city’s students are Black and Latino, $9,299 is spent per pupil compared to the $17, 261 spent just across the city line in Lower Merion where 91 percent of the students are white. This is the civil rights crisis of our generation.

In this context, we believe that it is essential that those who are committed to racial justice take a critical stance against organizations that aim to further privatize education and/or replace fully prepared unionized teachers with underprepared novices who are likely to leave the teaching profession in two to three years.

The Black Lives Matter movement has served as an inspiration and instruction on how to confront racism and inequality throughout our country. Part of that inspiration is the way that the movement has looked at the connections between police violence and racism and other inequalities faced by African Americans. We consider the attacks on public education to be a part of the “state-sanctioned violence” that the movement has done so much to highlight over the last year. We do not believe that the white billionaires that bankroll Teach for America and the corporate education “reform” movement are any more interested in the education of poor and working class Black and Latino children than we believe they are interested in ending police violence in Black and Brown communities. If they were, these crises would no longer exist.

We are glad that you are visiting Philadelphia, and we hope that you will use your platform to engage in a critical dialogue about whether TFA supports – or as we believe undercuts – the goals of a fully funded education for every student in Philadelphia with teachers who know their community and are committed to staying for the long haul.

 

Sincerely,
Members of the Caucus of Working Educators Racial Justice Committee
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

For more information please contact contact@workingeducators.org.

 

 

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Two Perspectives on Fighting Structural Racism

The following pieces are two perspectives and recent narratives on the ways that race and racial justice have informed the work of the Caucus of Working Educators for the last year.  

Caucus of Working Educators Centralizes Race in our Social Justice Analysis

Ismael Jimenez (Caucus of Working Educators, Kensington CAPA)

This past spring, Caucus Member and UPenn Ph.D. Candidate Rhiannon Maton facilitated an Inquiry to Action (ItAG) group to think about the connection between structural racism and the work of the Caucus of Working Educators (WE). The ItAG was run as a research study for Rhiannon’s doctoral dissertation.

The ItAG was made up of several members of WE, including myself, who came together to participate in dialogue surrounding race within the caucus. We thought it was important to think about race because of how much race frames the conversation about education consciously and unconsciously. After meeting for an intensive seven sessions, our group developed actions to be utilized within the Caucus of Working Educators and the larger education community in Philadelphia.

One of the actions that our group developed was a professional development session for other teachers and educator allies. We developed and facilitated over five professional development sessions that got people thinking more deeply about the effects of structural racism on education. Along with other members of our ItAG group, I participated in facilitating sessions at Central High School's citywide professional development day, the Teacher Lead Philly Summer Institute, as well as within my own school with my fellow staff-members during the beginning of the school year. I also plan to facilitate sessions surrounding structural racism at as many education gatherings as possible in the upcoming year.

Although race is an extremely difficult subject to dialogue about with others, I find that dialogue is a fruitful and an effective organizing tool.  to utilize in bringing others Our conversations brought people together into the work of building a network of racially conscious educators who are dedicated to speaking honestly about the current racial reality that taints our understanding of ourselves and each other.

What is Structural Racism?

According to Lawrence and Keleher (2004), Structural Racism is the normalization and legitimization of an array of entrenched dynamics – historical, cultural, institutional and interpersonal – that advantage whites while producing cumulative and chronic adverse outcomes for people of color which reinforce existent racially developed societal structures. It identifies dimensions of our history and culture that have allowed privileges associated with “whiteness” and disadvantages associated with “color” to endure and adapt over time. This definition reflects the distribution of material and symbolic advantage and disadvantage along racial lines while acknowledging the realignment of socio-political institutions developed throughout time to maintain continuity of racialized  power systems.

What brought us together to do this work?

Our inquiry group was motivated to think about the effect of structural racism on education, our schools, and our organizing practice because of the continued deficits of a truly informed racial analysis being purposefully applied to understanding issues related to teaching and learning.Over the last 30 years, there has been a concerted effort in America to roll back gains achieved during the Civil Rights Movement like the ending of the enforcement clause of the Voting Rights Act and desegregation requirements within the School District of Philadelphia. Our society can no longer simply assume that racial progress is a natural occurrence without it necessitating purposeful struggle.

Schools in Philadelphia represent a microcosm of the nation’s failure overall orientation toward failing to confront structural racism in our nation. This failure to confront structural racism is demonstrated by the increase of racially isolated schools and the creation of new learning networks that reinforce structures of racism.  With this knowledge at the forefront of constructing a viable analysis in order to build a sustainable collective movement, Any sustainable movement to transform education in Philadelphia a truly transformative program needs to be centered on race.

The Caucus of Working Educators has already began the work of providing a space to discuss and develop actions that take on surrounding structural racism. We have done this by:

  • We have done this first by engaging in the ItAG group to think about the connections between structural racism and our organization.
  • We have done this by creating a racial justice committee involving community members, parents, college professors, and teachers in Philadelphia.
  • SAnd we have done this by seeking out input from various individuals and organizations that already perform work surrounding structural racism. I am no way naive about the difficulty of changing patterns that have existed and reinforce structural racism, but the need to face our collective demon is obvious and evident.

I believe that in order to systematically create the conditions for transformation in our society, it is necessary to address the root causes of racism. This means recognizing those things that continue to restrict real progress in our society and those things which inspired past historical collective action and have created lasting change in our society. I contend that race exists at the intersection of all social issues affecting the American political economy, including issues ranging from class to gender. My contention is derived from an historical analysis of past and present social movements dedicated to addressing social justice concerns.

The strategy of addressing surface problems from neoliberal deform to resisting school closings simply continues to be an exercise of futility due to the issue of race as a driving motivation for the ability of our society to exploit people of color being neglected. This neglect in recognizing race as central to the problems in education creates the space for the majority of Americans to be shielded from the treatment of marginalization our children face.

Racism does not simply function as individual manifestations of overt bigoted diatribes, but as a structural force that informs our collective perceptions of each other, while preventing substantive modification to the socio-economic status quo tied to race. Therefore, the need to address structural racism through many angles is necessary for movement toward a more racially equitable society.

So, what can we do about it?

After meeting for an intensive seven sessions, our group developed actions to be utilized within the Caucus of Working Educators and the larger education community in Philadelphia.

One of the actions that our group developed was a professional development session for other teachers and educator allies. We developed and facilitated over five professional development sessions that got people thinking more deeply about the effects of structural racism on education. Along with other members of our ItAG group, I participated in facilitating sessions at Central High School's citywide professional development day, the Teacher Lead Philly Summer Institute, as well as within my own school with my fellow staff-members during the beginning of the school year. I also plan to facilitate sessions surrounding structural racism at as many education gatherings as possible in the upcoming year.

 


 

Making Racial Justice a Launching Point

Shira Cohen (Caucus of Working Educators Supporting Member, Wissahickon Charter School)

As the 2015-2016 school year begins, students, families and educators feel the crisis in Philadelphia’s public education system acutely  This September, the district, whose numbers surpass 130,000 students, will open without full staffs and resource bases. In this era of continued neighborhood racialized and economic segregation, a majority of students attending Philadelphia’s schools are young people of color whose educational opportunities continue to experience the de-funding of public education; divestment against sustained growth; school closures; and systematic attacks against students, families, and teachers.  

Simultaneously across the nation, social and racial justice leaders have continued to amplify stories of police abuse against people of color, the New Jim Crow of mass incarceration, and constructed segregation around access to space and systems.  #BlackLivesMatter, founded by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi, has uplifted the movement to dismantle the systems that sustain white supremacy and institutional racism in the public and private sectors of American life.  In order to effectively engage with educational justice movements in our own community, we must move to centralize discussions and actions around understanding and dismantling racism at individual and structural levels in our work.

For the last several months, conversations around racial justice have driven the work of the Caucus of Working Educators.  We have attended marches, rallies, and meetings as individuals and as organizations in solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter and the Philadelphia Coalition for Racial and Economic Justice.  Nine of our members participated in a research study led by Rhiannon Maton examining the significance of racial justice for our organizing work in the Caucus. An inquiry to action group oriented around social justice unionism met in May with a focus on the racial demographics of caucus membership, meetings and work.  Caucus members have led workshops on dismantling racism at personal, school-based, and organizational levels.  A book series this past summer included twelve texts that focused specifically on the impacts and realities of structural racism, movements to dismantle it, and radical activist work in our current times in education systems and additional social institutions.  In these varied spaces, we dissect how structural racism informs organizing practices; how building leadership of people of color must be central to the work of organizing that is rooted in communities of color; and how individuals must do their own personal work of targeting their own racism that can uphold the institutional structures at play.  

Now, where are we going with this work?  

On August 23, leaders in Caucus and the Teacher Action Group gathered for a retreat to continue the organizing and movement building work of these organizations’ visions.  Throughout the day, we thought and moved around the eight point plan developed by early founders of TAG National; brainstormed forms of leadership and action at varying levels of the movement for educational justice; read and discussed the introduction to What’s Race Got to Do with It, (ed. Bree Picower and Edwin Mayorga); and developed plans for continuing to galvanize the Opt-Outmovement, build the base of support for our movement, and create spaces for work around radical pedagogy. As an organization, the Caucus is striving to, centering race and racial justice in our organizing, and in our members’ personal and professional lives. We are striving to continue to grow joy and empowerment in our schools and classrooms.  

This work comes to a head this year as we begin to think about what’s coming for a larger movement, the specific organizations to which we ally ourselves and work, and our own ongoing work as individuals.  In order for our movement to intersect fully with a national push for racial justice, our personal understandings of privilege, power, and race must continue to evolve.  This work occurs on our own, in small group conversations, larger mobilization spaces, and in meetings to plan for campaigns and actions. This work also takes place, in our critical analysis of the public education system where we breathe, live, teach, and learn.   

 

Citations:

Lawrence, K., & Keleher, T. (2004, October 20). Chronic Disparity: Strong and Pervasive Evidence of Racial Inequalities/POVERTY OUTCOMES/Structural Racism. Lecture presented at Race and Public Policy Conference in Race Forward: The Center for Racial Justice Innovation., Berkeley.

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Working Educators Respond to Eric Garner Case

In light of recent no indictment ruling in the Eric Garner case, the Caucus of Working Educators stands in solidarity with the family of Eric Garner and everyone across the country fighting for #blacklivesmatter.

Two days after the 59th anniversary of Rosa Parks refusal to move from her seat, a New York Grand Jury ruled that police officer, David Pantaleo, would not be charged in the choke-hold death of Eric Garner, a father of 6. In spite of the following two facts: Choke-holds are banned from the New York Police Department and the autopsy ruled Garner’s death a homicide and the choke hold as the official cause of death according to the coroner report. Despite the push for body cameras, this incident was completely captured on video, which questions the veracity and effectiveness of the new proposed camera policies. We hope that justice will be done for Tamir Rice.


True change will have to include acknowledgment of an always broken American Justice system, deep bias in policing, major education and training for law enforcement, firing of police officers who have violated civilian rights, and transforming our mechanisms and priorities for building truly safe communities. 

Educators, community members, and parents want our children to feel safe and for justice to prevail over bias and inherently racist laws. We want to be able to look each of our students in the face and tell them that they are safe and that their lives DO matter.

If these issues matter to you as an educator, then we strongly encourage you to attend today's happy hour hosted by Teacher Action Group:

December 5th
4:30-6:30pm
Prohibition Taproom
531 N 13th Street

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WE Statement on #Ferguson and #BlackLivesMatter

Last night, a grand jury declined to charge Darren Wilson, the police officer in the shooting death of Michael Brown. The Caucus of Working Educators stands in solidarity with Ferguson, Missouri and the parents of the Michael Brown in their disappointment of this ruling.

As teachers in the city of Philadelphia, we work every day to help our students see that their lives matter. We fight for quality public schools that will give every student the opportunity to feel that their voices, opinions, and lives are valued and cared for.

However, moments such as the non-indictment of Darren Wilson in the murder of Mike Brown teach our students a different story. This story -as well as the story of 12 year old Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, and many others- says that the lives of black and brown youth don’t matter. These stories paint our students as criminals, rather than the intelligent and loving young men and women we know they are.

WE stand in solidarity with everyone across the country fighting for #blacklivesmatter. WE are inspired by the millions of young people in Ferguson and around the country who have said “We’ve had enough”, and have stood up for justice for Mike Brown and the countless number of black men and women who continue to die at the hands of police officers under questionable circumstances.

It is time now for the Attorney General Eric Holder to continue the federal case and find justice for Michael Brown. We encourage teachers in Philadelphia to discuss the verdict with your colleagues and students in your school. We will not be able to save public education without fighting for racial justice and dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline at the same time. You can find many articles and resources to spark your discussion by searching #FergusonSyllabus.

Until we stop sanitizing the issue of race, class, and its connection to how American justice is delegated, we will never find a real sustainable solution.


 

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Caucus Members Discuss "A Love Supreme"

Check out this amazing commentary from African-American male educators in Philly -- including Caucus members Brendon Jobs and Sam Reed -- and remember that Philadelphia educators remain caring, thoughtful, and innovative despite the attacks on our work and our livelihood.

 

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