Why I Joined: Alison McDowell

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 school district parent--who chose to join. 

alison.jpgWhat experiences led you to join the Caucus of Working Educators?

When it comes to public education in Philadelphia, you can feel powerless or you can seek out like-minded people to empower yourself. I have surrounded myself with a network of amazing education activists who hold me up. Together we keep the faith, do the work, find the high ground, and shine a light into the dark corners of education reform.  We are teachers, librarians, counselors, nurses, support staff, parents, and community leaders advocating for the classrooms and schools our children deserve. I consider the creation of the Caucus of WE an extension of the valuable networking that has taken place over the past few years. I hope it will be a means to expand connections among education activists.

What frustrates you about the current state of public education in Philadelphia?

Public education is the foundation of American democracy, but right now the voices of stakeholders are being shut out. Teachers, parents, and students have been systematically excluded from the conversation about the future of our schools.  Meanwhile private interest groups continue to buy access to education policy makers at all levels of government. This must change.

What gives you hope for the future?

People are recognizing the power they have to change the system and are making time to do the work. There are over 39,000 Badass Teachers involved in this fight nationally. Here in Philadelphia people are speaking up regularly in SRC meetings.  They are learning how to use social media to organize and create alternative media sources. They are investigating and exposing the dark money being used to privatize our schools.  The privatization movement is national in scope and the same strategies are recycled over and over. We have the power to learn from Chicago, Newark, New Orleans, New York etc. We have a powerful network of support.  We can help each one another.  We ARE helping one another. I believe in the power of relationships and in the power of individual actions to inspire change. That gives me hope.

What would you say to other parents or community members who have never thought about joining a group like ours?

Shoneice Reynolds, a Chicago parent, said it best. “I wasn’t an activist until it fell into my backyard.” Even if you don’t perceive yourself to be an activist, the potential is there. We all have talents to bring to this fight. For an issue as important as the future of public education, we must find the time. Teachers, parents, and community stakeholders working together can make change happen.

We hope Alison's story inspires you to join us in our work! You can also e-mail us to get more information about membership at members@workingeducators.org.