The Caucus of Working Educators is a diverse group of PFT members and their supporters who hail from every corner of Philadelphia. Below is the story of one supporter -- a Building Rep from a union family--who chose to join.
What experiences led you to join the Caucus of Working Educators?
For years I have been frustrated and saddened by the state of education in Philadelphia. An emphasis on “basic skills” and standardized testing was not engaging my students or helping them to learn well. As I progressed through my Urban Ed degree at Temple University, I began to understand that urban and rural districts throughout the US (and the world, in fact) were being negatively impacted in much the same way. A respected colleague engaged me in conversations about social justice unionism and connected me with others. I discovered that a number or like-minded teachers shared my ideas.
This is why I joined the Caucus of Working Educators - to fight back on my terms against the forces that are harming my profession and my students – privatization, obsession with standardized tests and the de-professionalization of teachers.
You're a PFT Building Rep. What's the relationship between that role and being a caucus member?
I come from a family of union members. My father was a UFOA delegate for the FDNY and my mother was a member of the NYTU teacher in NYC. I was raised on the conviction that collectively, we can make our workplaces and community better and safer. For three years I have been the PFT Building Representative at the Feltonville School of Arts and Sciences. I feel strongly that teachers have a right to due process and a need to be heard on issues of safety and academics at our school. I have spent a lot energy engaging my colleagues in the on-going fight to preserve our hard-won rights and to make our school a better place to teach and learn. The Caucus of WE helps me frame our issues and supports my efforts to energize each teacher at my school to fight for the students we teach. WE compliments and amplifies my traditional PFT advocacy.
What's your favorite part of being a caucus member?
The most important thing that the Caucus of WE does for me is to continually help me frame and reframe issues in terms of social justice. PFT members are workers that have earned and deserve respect. We do a tough job and have fought for and deserve basic rights such as due job security and regular raises. We also deserve basic amenities such as potable water, desks and reasonable rosters. Our working conditions are our students learning conditions. Students deserve fair treatment such as safe and clean environment. They deserve a rich curriculum that includes technology, library science, art and music. They deserve schools that are populated with caring professionals – counselors, nurses, therapists and safety personnel. The Caucus of WE energizes and supports my fight beyond the boundaries of the SDP/PFT contract.
What would you say to other educators who are thinking about joining the caucus?
If you are wondering why you should join the Caucus of WE, do so because it is a space where you can determine what your school needs and take action. It is a grassroots group that seeks to unite and empower different kinds of people – parents, teachers and citizens, to act in ways that make sense at their school and in their neighborhoods.