Caucus Stands with Teachers in British Columbia

The British Columbia Teachers' Federation has been in a contract dispute with their government, and spent several days striking in advance of the school year. Their members recently voted to enter binding arbitration -- now their elected officials must agree to it!

Below is our letter:

September 12, 2014

Dear Premier Clark and Minister Fassbender,

WE write in support of our sisters and brothers in the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation and ask that the BC Government agree to arbitration of the collective agreement.  Teachers are currently striking in order to improve classroom conditions for their students: as a striking teacher said this week, "The primary point is getting funding for students, for getting more staff, for getting correct class sizes."  Teachers, school staff, and honest education researchers know that these things are extremely important in order to give students the education they deserve.

The BCTF has reasonably asked for this long-term dispute to go to binding arbitration. Binding arbitration is a fair and standard labor-relations practice that allows an impartial third party to mediate contentious disputes and guide fair solutions. If the government would agree to this, the schools could open quickly and students and teachers could get back to work.

Most stakeholders in British Columbia are behind this rational solution—everyone from teachers to parents to mayors and newspapers support sending this labor dispute to binding arbitration. Why does the government resist a fair and neutral process?

As fellow working educators and social justice unionists, WE respectfully ask that the government of British Columbia agree to put these issues to binding arbitration so that teachers and students can get back to teaching and learning.

 

Sincerely,

The Caucus of Working Educators

A Caucus of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA

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March with WE at the People's Climate March: Sun, Sept 21st

In a little less than two weeks, activists, educators, and unionists from around the country will be gathering in New York City for the largest environmental march in the history of the United States. The Caucus of Working Educators will be there, marching alongside other unions and activists from Philadelphia (plus our hot new WE banner!).

350 Philly and Action United have organized low cost buses to and from Philadelphia next Sunday, but they're going fast. 

Reserve your ticket now. Buses will be leaving at 8am and will return by 7pm that evening. Please let us know that you're coming, or if you have any questions, by emailing max.rosenlong [at] gmail.com. We will follow-up with a meeting place and time in NYC.

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Why is climate change also a labor and education issue? I'll let Naomi Klein (whose book The Shock Doctrine was one of our summer readings groups) explain:

Our current economic model is not only waging war on workers, on communities, on public services and social safety nets. It’s waging war on the life support systems of the planet itself. The conditions for life on earth. 

...[Climate Change is] a powerful message – spoken in the language of fires, floods, storms and droughts – telling us that we need an entirely new economic model, one based on justice and sustainability.  

In Philly's public schools we're all too familiar with the effects of this unsustainable model, as we begin yet another year of budget crises and cuts. Join WE on Sunday, Sept. 21st to stop global warming and to build a just and sustainable economy.

 

More information:

Why Unions Need to Join the Climate Fight, Naomi Klein

A Call to Arms: An Invitation to Demand Action on Climate Change, Bill McKibben

 

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Petition Against Health Hazards in District Schools

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Photo Courtesy of Jerry Roseman / City Paper

The Philadelphia Project on Occupational Safety and Health (PhilaPOSH) has organized a petition that calls on the Mayor, City Council, and the SRC to require the school district to cooperate with a federal study about health hazards in Philly public school buildings. The study could greatly benefit students, teachers, and other staff, but School District has declined to participate. Unless the district reverses its decision by September 30, the study will be canceled.

The City Paper published a long article about this issue back in May, after the asthma-related death of Laporshia Massey, a student at Bryant Elementary: http://citypaper.net/article.php?Philly-School-District-blocks-a-federal-study-after-health-risks-are-exposed-20288.
PhilaPOSH has begun circulating the attached petition, and they are asking people to return it to them by September 9. In addition to calling for the study to be completed, the petition calls on the district to make information about health hazards publicly available and to collaborate with unions and other stakeholders to address these hazards.

Download the Petition - Sign and Return

All educators should take two minutes to print this petition, have it signed by staff and parents on the first day of school, and send signed copies to:
PhilaPOSH
3001 Walnut Street, 5th Fl.
Philadelphia, PA 19104

You can also e-mail scanned copies to Barbara at brahke@philaposh.org. For more information, call her at 215-386-7000.
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Thank you from the Caucus of WE!

Huge props to all the WE members who represented at the PFT General Membership Meeting on Tuesday night and helped spread the word about how the Caucus is working to strengthen our union!

Nat Bartels, Klint Kanopka, Amy Brown, Mark Stern, Diane Payne, Sam Mastriano, Shaw MacQueen, Tom Quinn, Sheila Myers, Eileen Duffey, Pam Roy, Chris Palmer, Tom Hladchek, Kristin Leubbert, Amy Roat, Ray Porreca, Peggy Savage, David Hensel, George Bezanis, Tatiana Olmeda, Max Rosen-Long, Lou Borda, Anissa Weinraub, Sam Reed, Bob Fournier, Mike Bernstein, Larissa Pahomov, Kelley Collings...

(Names are in no particular order. Sorry if we missed anyone!)

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Teacher Union Boot Camp

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Wish that your colleagues participated in building meetings and other PFT events? Looking for inspiration as well as expert tips and tricks? Want to be more pro-active than reactive?

Then this boot camp is for you! RSVP now for our event.

Thursday, October 2nd / 4:30 – 6:30pm
IAFF Local 22 / 415 N. 5th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19123

Parking can be found on the 400 block of Willow St.
Childcare and snacks provided!

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A Closer Look at PERC

On August 19, Research for Action (RFA) launched the Philadelphia Education Research Consortium (PERC) in partnership with the School District of Philadelphia, the city’s charter school sector, and the three largest universities in the city. With a 3-year $900,000 grant from the William Penn Foundation, the Consortium will “provide research and analyses on some of the city’s most pressing education issues.” The release can be found on RFA’s website.

The Caucus of Working Educators recognizes the need for a more coordinated research effort to understand and address the needs of Philadelphia’s public schools, but so far the Consortium raises some concerns.

In its design, the Consortium will have both a Steering Committee, composed of two District officials and two representatives from the charter school sector, and a Research Advisory Committee, composed of representatives from University of Pennsylvania, Temple University, and Drexel University. The Steering Committee will set the agenda so that research is not driven by the interests of researchers. However, WE is concerned that the partnership ignores most important stakeholders of public education - students, parents, and teachers, who do not seem to have any agency in this partnership.  

Moreover, the William Penn Foundation has previously played a very partisan role in education, providing grant money to the pro-charter Philadelphia School Partnership. They also faced ethics complaints for directing anonymous funds towards the Boston Consulting Group, whose “blueprint” advocated for school closure and privatization.

RFA sites that it will receive strategic guidance from the Chicago Consortium of School Research (CCSR), among other similar consortia. Let’s take Chicago as an example.

  •  From its inception in 1990, the CCSR had an advisory board that consisted of representatives from community based groups, the Chicago Teachers Union, the school district, and other research organizations and universities in the city. This broad-reaching committee set the agenda and accepted proposals from other groups as well. They also brought in varied stakeholders to reflect on drafts of the findings.
  • Charles Payne, Professor at the University of Chicago, said the following of the CCSR: “Its early reports were attacked by the powers that be in the city. They were attacked not on intellectual or mythological grounds, but because they were criticizing policies that people were invested in. So, in that period people saw the Consortium beaten on all the time by the powerful and they [the CCSR] stuck to their guns.
  • The CCSR engaged many important stakeholders at various steps of the research process, was steadfast even as its findings criticized existing policies by those in power, and maintained independence from the school district though its representatives sat on the advisory board.

Recent news reports state that the research agenda of this new group has not yet been set. The Caucus hopes  that the group will prove themselves to be the unbiased research group that Philadelphia could really use – and urges this city’s education community to pay close attention to their future work.

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Statement on the School Redesign Initiative

On July 21st, The School District of Philadelphia unveiled its School Redesign Initiative. The details can be reviewed at the initiative's website or via PDF.

 

While WE would like to see this as a sign that the SDP actually recognizes educators as capable of leadership and positive transformation, several of the initiative’s features raise red flags. The initiative may be an improvement over charter takeover and Promise Academies, both of which strip teachers of their professionalism and autonomy. However, the SRI is a long way from a comprehensive, sustainable redesign, and it undervalues both the communities it serves and the educators it employs.

 

  • If this initiative valued educators, it would turn to schools first and work with that building's staff directly. Instead, it lets any group apply for control of any school, pitting current staff against any number of outside interests. (Groups must prove they have a “connection” to the school, but what exactly that entails is unclear.) Moreover, a winning group can force out all of the current staff.
  • If this initiative valued local communities, it would allow those communities to select a redesign model for themselves. (Like the families of Steel and Munoz-Marin, who overwhelmingly voted for the plan proposed by their current educators!) Instead, it hands the decision off to a "panel" with no explanation as to how the members will be selected or how the group will reach consensus.
  • If the district valued collaboration between educators and community members, it would have set the first deadline a month or two into the school year. This would give stakeholders time to listen to each other, share ideas, and make plans that best serve their students before forming a team. Instead, the letter of intent is due August 19th, less than a month from the announcement of the initiative, and in the middle of summer break.
  • If this initiative believed in teacher professionalism and autonomy, it would allow all schools to create "redesign" programs. Instead, the initiative will only accept between two and ten proposals. These groups will receive a relatively small grant (around $30,000) and, more importantly, a three year "grace period" where they are exempt from district assessment and closure. Of course, the grace period doesn't cost a penny -- why not award this autonomy and safety to all schools, and trust teachers to be the professionals that they are?

Most importantly, this initiative distracts from the big picture in Philadelphia schools: without adequate funding, our schools will continue to be a shadow of their former selves. Any attempt at transformation before funding is restored is overconfident at best, and purposefully misleading at worst. Educators have been asked to "do more with less" for years while their colleagues are being laid off by the thousands -- and those same educators have been putting together redesign plans for years, in response to threats of closure and charter takeover. The initiative is our city's version of "Race To The Top," where a lucky few will win a small prize while all schools continue to struggle.


The rapid timeline, lack of transparency in its development, and unveiling in the midst of a funding crisis all lead us to consider the SRI with skepticism. As always, working educators in our schools are yet again being given the message that we are targets for takeover, turnover, and removal. If your school is eligible (see pages 32-35 of the PDF), please talk with your colleagues and mobilize your school community to defend itself from outside “reform.”  Proposal letters for the SRI are due August 19th.

For more information, you can also RSVP to the next SRI information session on August 12th. (The Caucus of Working Educators attended the July 30th session; check out our coverage on Twitter.)

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Caucus Members Protest Duncan Visit

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It doesn't take that many protestors to make waves! On July 13th, the Caucus turned out a group to protest Arne Duncan's recent appearance in Philadelphia, and the press took notice.

"We are protesting the high-stakes testing that are a part of this 'Race to the Top' [grant] damaging our schools," said Academy at Palumbo nurse Eileen Duffey, who held a poster that read, "School nurse says 'no' to Arne Duncan's high-stakes test."

Check out the full story here.

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Action Alert: Protest Arne Duncan and his Anti-Public Policies Friday

Caucus members learned earlier that Secretary of Education Duncan will be visiting Philly tomorrow, and Philly teachers will be there to tell him what we think of his pro-testing, anti-public education policies. 

Working Educators is encouraging people to join us at the DoubleTree Hotel (Broad and Locust) to protest Duncan's policies from 12-1pm. However, if you are unable to make it, there will be Caucus members at CCP from 10-11am as well. 

Duncan will be making two stops, first at CCP from 10-11am, and then from 12-1pm at the DoubleTree Hotel at Broad and Locust. These visits were just announced publicly today via a City of Philadelphia press release

Duncan has been an avowed supporter of corporate education reform interests. At last week's national NEA Conference, the country's largest teacher union officially called for Duncan's resignation.

Bring signs, sign-making supplies, noisemakers, and most of all- your passion and vision for a robust and equitable public education system in Philadelphia. 

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Statewide Call-In Days 6/27 and 6/30 : Current Budget is Irresponsible and Unacceptable

It is hard to imagine, but the PA House advanced a state budget in Harrisburg that is far worse for public schools than the budget Governor Corbett proposed earlier this year. Call Harrisburg this week to tell them this is unacceptable. 

Our friends at Education Voters of Pennsylvania are putting together a Statewide Call to Action on Friday, June 27th and Monday, June 30th. Please spread this info far and wide, and make sure to call your representatives.

As Ed Voters writes, "advocates must speak out loudly and with one voice in support of responsible funding for public schools this year. If we do not speak up now, public education will likely receive little more than scraps in the budget this year."

Please see the letter below for more info and full details on tomorrow and Monday's call-in days.

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Friends and Allies,

On Friday, June 27th, and Monday, June 30th, Education Voters will be holding the next "Call to Action for Public Education" days!

It is hard to imagine, but the PA House advanced a state budget in Harrisburg that is far worse for public schools than the budget Governor Corbett proposed earlier this year.

The PA House is calling to eliminate the $241 million increase in state funding for proposed Ready to Learn Block grants and replace this with a paltry $70 million increase in Basic Education Funding. Under the House budget, PA school districts would lose about 70% of the increases in state funding they were expecting to receive this year and that they were relying on to balance their budgets.

The House budget is irresponsible and unacceptable.  It does not call for a shale tax or a cigarette tax.  Instead, it relies on the sale of state liquor stores (which the Senate has so far not supported), gimmicky sources of one-time funding, and the suspension of selected tax credits to balance the budget.

Budget negotiations are just beginning. While the budget is still fluid and negotiations are taking place, advocates must speak out loudly and with one voice in support of responsible funding for public schools this year. If we do not speak up now, public education will likely receive little more than scraps in the budget this year.

As with previous Call to Action for Education days, we are asking for broad participation from all organizations and individuals across the Commonwealth.  It is incredibly important the legislators in Harrisburg see that people are paying attention.  Communities are using these call-in-days to help spread the word about what is happening to our schools, so please join us again! 

I have attached materials that you can share as-is or customize, including how to make a good call and key points about the how legislators can improve the proposed budget, so people are prepared to call in. If there is anything we can do to support your efforts, please let us know.

You can always check our website where we have information and materials.

WHEN:  Friday, June 27 AND Monday, June 30, 2014

WHAT:  Call to Action for Public Education – It’s time for a fair budget for PA’s students!

HOW TO PARTICIPATE:  Mark your calendar and plan to ask your own network to take action

Suggested communication schedule

Put the date on your calendar today

- Send a “Get Ready” email on Thursday, June 26 or Friday, June 27 with action materials

- Send a Take Action email on Monday morning and promote the day on social media. Twitter:  #educationpa and #pabudget

Thank you for your support of our public schools. Please contact me if I can help you with this in any way or if you have questions.

Susan Spicka

Sample “Get Ready” email

On Monday, June 30, the Caucus of Working Educators, in collaboration with Education Voters PA, will be participating in a statewide call in day, to call Harrisburg.

Join thousands of parents, students, teachers and community members from across the state to SPEAK UP in support of our public schools on Monday, June 30th.  

Under the proposed House budget, PA school districts would lose about 70% of the increases in state funding they were expecting to receive this year and that they were relying on to balance their budgets.

Budget negotiations are just beginning. While the budget is still fluid and negotiations are taking place, advocates must speak out loudly and with one voice in support of responsible funding for public schools this year. If we do not speak up now, public education will likely receive little more than scraps in the budget this year. We know that just 10 calls in one day to one legislator can make a difference in what a legislator pays attention to. 

Mark your calendar today for Monday, June 30th – and do 3 things in 10 minutes to make a difference! Click here for your legislators' phone numbers. Click here for tips on how to make a good phone call.

1.      Call your State Senator.

2.      Call your State Representative.

3.      Call Gov. Corbett's office at (717) 787-2500.  

Ask them to:

  • Support the adoption of a shale tax, cigarette tax and any reasonable measure to raise revenue and close tax loopholes.
  • Support an increase in the Basic Education Funding line that is equal to what was in the proposed Ready to Learn Block Grant.
  • Support and advocate for state funding for charter school reimbursement to be restored.
  • Support SB 1316/HB2138, the special education funding and accountability reform bill.  (Additional information about this bill can be found atwww.educationvoterspa.org)  

 Want to double your impact?  Ask a friend to make a call that day too!  

Please take 5-10 minutes on Monday, June 30th  to help ensure a bright future for Pennsylvania! 

Visit us on the web at EducationVotersPA.org where you can Sign Up for Updates

Follow us on Twitter at @EdVotersPA and #educationPA

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