SRC Testimony: Eileen Duffey

On Thursday, October 16th, ten members of the Caucus testified before the SRC. This week we will be posting some of their testimonies in written form.

Good evening.

I am coming up on three years on not having missed an SRC meeting. I am a volunteer citizen I do this at the end of my work day and I have learned an awful lot about citizenship. I have learned an awful lot about things that are disconcerting. I have to spend a lot of effort and energy to keep myself from becoming very cynical with regards to what we  are in the midst of.

I had a few remarks prepared, but some of my colleagues in the Caucus of Working Educators and other citizens tonight have done better than I could do myself. I have just one burning question that came up when I was sitting in the audience tonight and that is: “Why does Mark Gleason even have to sign up to speak at an SRC meeting?”

Mark Gleason runs the Great School Compact. He is the person who is essentially running this school district behind closed doors in meetings that most of the people here are not invited to attend.

Why is Mark Gleason’s presence even necessary? Seeing him only reminds us that the best kept secret in Philadelphia is that Mark Gleason, the SRC members in front of me, Dr. Hite, the governor, the mayor, and to some extent the media have been involved in a full court press effort to destroy this district from within and without, leaving a few dozen of us spending every moment of our waking hours, with zero compensation--people at the grassroots level--trying to hold up this public school district--trying to get a vision of a real school district that people who live in this city would want to send their children to.

We are all onto you and, I think increasingly you won’t be a best-kept secret because we are committed to getting this word out.

And speaking of not backing down -- Ms. Simms, you haven’t seen anything yet.


In Response to Sylvia Simms

As educators, we know that "high expectations" is more than just a slogan -- it's a necessity. If we want our students to succeed and go on to great things, we need to show them every day that we believe in them, and give them the encouragement they deserve.

For this reason, we are appalled by the actions of SRC Commissioner Sylvia Simms, who responded to nonviolent student activists with a verbal assault -- telling students that "You belong in jail," and "You must go to failing schools."

We believe that respect for students must begin at the top. We are ashamed of the actions of SRC Commissioner Simms, whose actions dishonor her role overseeing our schools.

To us, this incident reinforces our call for a publicly accountable School District. Her refusal to apologize only strengthens our call to eliminate the SRC.


SRC Testimony: Kristin Luebbert

On Thursday, October 16th, ten members of the Caucus testified before the SRC. This week we will be posting some of their testimonies in written form.


Good Evening Dr. Hite, Mr. Green, and Commissioners,


My name is Kristin Luebbert. I am a proud citizen of this great city, a member of the PFT, and a member of the Caucus of Working Educators.


I would like to speak tonight on the equity of shared sacrifice. This has been your go-to phrase as you excoriate teachers and other school workers for daring to expect “leaders” to uphold the law and the constitution of this nation by honoring a contract that was fairly and legally negotiated and agreed to.


So, let’s talk about “shared sacrifice”.  About a year ago, you, Dr. Hite, took a ten percent pay cut (though you still make six figures) and asked your leadership team to do the same.  Last we heard, no one on the leadership team had actually agreed to what you, their boss, asked of them.  If that has changed recently, please feel free to correct me now.


So, since “negotiations” on this matter with your leadership team seem to have stalled (the same rationale you used to cancel the PFT contract), I am asking if you and the SRC are willing to unilaterally cancel the contracts of the leadership team and impose the 10% pay cut upon them.


If not, why not?  Why should the shared sacrifice of in-school employees be greater than that of that of the leadership team?


It is time to give control of OUR schools back to the citizens of Philadelphia. It is time for leaders to act honorably and live up to their agreement. Teachers, counselors, nurses, classroom assistants, secretaries, NTAs and all school workers honor our contract with kids and families every day.  If the leaders of this district cannot honor theirs, it is time to erase the SRC.


Consider this your personal invitation...

We are almost ready for tomorrow's rally! Check out the big builds we made tonight on Facebook -- and also check out our sample signs if you need inspiration for your own.


But now we have to ask: Are you doing your part to turn out the community?

At too many rallies, the only people in attendance are PFT Members. But this time around, that won't be the case -- students, family, community stakeholders, and a slew of other unions have already agreed to take part.

So, what about your friends and family? If they care about you, then they care about the future of public education, and they need to participate in tomorrow's action in some shape or form.

We know that this kind of ask can be hard, so we're providing a script to help you do it. Use as much or as little of it as you like. Just make sure that you don't keep our situation a secret. We need all of Philadelphia in this fight with us!

Oh, and if you're not a PFT member, consider this your personal invitation from the caucus to come out and support us tomorrow!

Dear _______,

As you may have picked up from my Facebook feed, my teachers contract was canceled last Monday in a stealth meeting held by the school district. The school district is now attempting to force health care payments on its employees, claiming that we are the only stakeholders in Philadelphia who haven't "sacrificed" to help our underfunded district. 

Without going into an exhaustive labor history, canceling a collective contract like ours is both illegal and crazy, to the point where ALL Philly unions are considering going on a general strike in support of teachers.

You all know I love my job. You all also know how hard I work. So you should also know that the district is not really doing this to save themselves some money -- they are doing this to screw over my union,scapegoat teachers, and possibly help Corbett rally his base of conservative voters by making Philadelphia teachers look greedy

To those ends, I have a big ask: 

Join me tomorrow at 4PM to rally in front of the school district office at 440 North Broad Street.
There's gonna be many unions, and teachers hosting grade-ins, and GIANT PENCILS built by Spiral Q, and multiple unions, and students being badass. Get all the details on the Facebook invite.


Now, I know this is last minute ask and a lot of people have work -- so if you can't make it, I have a much easier small ask: 

Post a #solidaritywithteachers
 photo on social media any time tomorrow, but especially between 4 and 6 PM.

Twitter or FB, doesn't matter, you can totally tag me as the reason you're doing it, just make sure you include the proper hashtags: #solidaritywithteachers and #phled. 

I'm attaching a couple of photos as examples. Take one with your partner! Take one with your office! Take one standing on your head! 

But if you are serious the future of Philly, you need to be in on this.



Weekly Update: How to Make Thursday Work for YOU

Editors Note: To get these weekly updates in your email, please click on the "Join Us" button above, and join the mailing list or join as a Caucus member (you don't have to be in the PFT to be part of WE!).

First off, we've got two more essential resources to help you understand the SRC's proposed health care costs:

  • How would your health care costs add up? - A review of monthly and annual costs for EVERY health plan offered, calculated correctly by actual district math teachers.
  • Are Philly teachers on par? - An exhaustive comparison of average salaries and health care costs in the region, expertly researched by Central History teacher George Bezanis.

Do you notice a trend here? Caucus members are debunking the lies that the SRC has spread in the past week ( that the press is only just starting to recognize as misinformation, at best.)

Of course, the real issue here is not one of dollars and cents -- it's the broken trust between the SRC and the union, working educators, and the entire city of Philadelphia.

To those ends, it is essential that anyone who cares about public education in Philadelphia join us on Thursday:

Keeping Our Contract With the Students of Philadelphia

Even though the School District of Philadelphia arbitrarily cancelled the contracts of 12,500 teachers on Monday, teachers across the city continue to uphold our contracts to educate and care for the students and families of Philadelphia. 

How do YOU keep your contract every day with the students of Philadelphia? Whether you're a teacher, parent, student, or community member, come to 440 N Broad on Thursday, 10/16 to show the SRC what it means to keep our contract with Philadelphia's kids.

How can you make this rally meaningful? 

To be clear, it is about more than just "showing up" -- we need to present a clear message to Philadelphia about what has gone wrong with the school district, and then publicize that message ourselves by photographing, videotaping, and sharing everything that happens during the event.

So what should you be doing? Here are some prompts for each group of stakeholders:


  • "The SRC broke my contract, but I'm keeping my contract by ___________." Describe the work that you do to support your students despite the disrespect you've been shown.
  • BRING THAT WORK to the rally! Educators will be participating in a "grade-in" both in the Atrium and outside of 440.
  • Also: "My Union WANTS to Negotiate!"
  • Also: "Collective Bargaining is the LAW!"
  • Also: "Dr. Hite pays 5% of his healthcare costs. Can I get that plan?"


  • "I'm helping teachers keep their contract by ____________" -- fill in the blank. rallying today? bringing supplies to school? paying for extra programming? volunteering?
  • "I am a (school name) parent and I stand in #solidaritywithteachers"
  • "The SRC has disrespected my children, their teachers, and our community."

Community Members:

  • "I am an ______________ (job description) and I stand in #solidaritywithteachers"
  • "I am a graduate of _______________ and my school and its teachers deserve better."
  • "The SRC has violated the public trust!"


You'll probably be hearing from us again before the big day. In the meantime, share these prompts with everybody you know. Make personal asks for friends and family to turn out. 

Because this isn't about some health care costs. This is about the future of public education in our city.



Are Philly Teachers on Par?

By George Bezanis

Editors Note: This article can now be downloaded as a printable PDF. Please print and share with colleagues, friends, and family!


SRC Chair Bill Green, Mayor Michael Nutter, and Governor Tom Corbett have recently said that the reason they decided to impose contract terms on the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers is because, unlike other school districts in Pennsylvania, Philadelphia teachers do not contribute toward health care. Philadelphia teachers, they claim, have not sacrificed enough for the children of Philadelphia.


The number Green, Nutter, Corbett, and the SRC have been throwing around is that it will only cost Philadelphia teachers 5-13% of the insurance premium, or approximately $25-$75 a month - a reasonable request.


What they fail to mention, however, is that that particular quote is for a single individual under a high deductible plan. Under the District’s new benefits, the SRC is now eliminating their previously cheaper Keystone HMO 15 $0 deductible plan. The new standard plan, Personal Choice 320, has higher deductibles and only covers 90% of inpatient hospital costs. This move deceptively forces teachers to “buy-up” to the Personal Choice 20/30/70 plan, which costs the district a total of $24,239.64 per year ($2019.97 x 12).


For someone who earns $55,000, the resulting $6319 yearly premium amounts to a 26% contribution -- not 13% as quoted in the papers -- and is, in fact, a 11.5% pay-cut for a Philadelphia teacher earning $55,000. If, God forbid, you have a spouse who works and would like to add them to your plan, it adds up to an astounding $8139 premium, or a 34% contribution resulting in a nearly 15% pay cut.


So what about those teachers in other schools that already pay towards their health care? How do Philadelphia teachers compare? Are Philadelphia teachers, as SRC Chair Bill Green stated, on par with them?


I decided to research what teachers who earn $55,000 in other districts pay towards their health care for a $0 deductible family plan (including spouse), and here are my findings:


$61 a month
Lower Merion
2.2% of salary
14% of premium
Council Rock
16% of premium
16% of premium
Central Bucks
16% of premium
Lower Moreland
6% of premium
11% of premium

26% of premium
34% of premium
$6,319 or
$8,139 (spouse)

*(Note: I researched over 20 districts, and while all the numbers are remarkably consistent with these findings, I only chose to include those districts that actually have their contracts posted online so that readers know the data is 100% accurate.)


How Would Your Health Care Costs Add Up?

We know that educators are still reeling from the announcement of imposed health care costs -- and trying to make sense of the many different numbers being thrown at them.

To help you make sense of what the SDP plan could cost you and your family, we are providing two charts below that show the per paycheck, monthly, and annual impact of these plans, depending on your pay level.

The first chart maps out the "automatic" Personal Choice 320 Plan -- which has inferior coverage to the Keystone East HMO currently offered as standard by the PFT -- and the second covers the "buy up" Personal Choice 20/30/70 plan.

Note that the district's original claim of pricing -- that it would cost $21 to $70 a month -- is only true for 5 out of 21 scenarios. (And four of those are for employees who make less than $25k a year.)

New Modified Personal Choice 320 Provided Insurance Plan Effective 12/15/2014 Per paycheck contribution if salary is less than $25k Monthly Impact Yearly Impact Per paycheck contribution if salary is $25k-$55k Monthly Impact Yearly Impact Per paycheck contribution if salary is greater than $55k Monthly Impact Yearly Impact
Single $12.85 $27.84 $334.10 $25.71 $55.71 $668.46 $33.42 $72.41 $868.92
Employee + Child $18.00 $39.00 $468.00 $35.99 $77.98 $935.74 $46.79 $101.38 $1,216.54
Employee + Children $23.14 $50.14 $601.64 $46.27 $100.25 $1,203.02 $60.16 $130.35 $1,564.16
Employee + Spouse $25.71 $55.71 $668.46 $51.42 $111.41 $1,336.92 $66.84 $144.82 $1,737.84
Employee + Spouse with Surcharge $95.71 $207.37 $2,488.46 $121.42 $263.08 $3,156.92 $136.84 $296.49 $3,557.84
Family $38.56 $83.55 $1,002.56 $77.12 $167.09 $2,005.12 $100.26 $217.23 $2,606.76
Family + Surcharge $108.56 $235.21 $2,822.56 $147.12 $318.76 $3,825.12 $170.26 $368.90 $4,426.76


Cost to 'buy up' to the more expensive Personal Choice 20/30/70 insurance plan Per Paycheck Cost if Salary is Less Than $25k for Personal Choice 20/30/70 Monthly Impact for Personal Choice 20/30/70 Yearly Impact for Personal Choice 20/30/70 Per Paycheck Salary $25k-$55k for Personal Choice 20/30/70 Monthly Impact for Personal Choice 20/30/70 Yearly Impact to Keep Personal Choice 20/30/70 Per Paycheck Salary greater than $55k to Keep Personal Choice 20/30/70 Monthly Impact to Keep Personal Choice 20/30/70 Yearly Impact to Keep Personal Choice 20/30/70
Single $60.44 $130.95 $1,571.44 $73.30 $158.82 $1,905.80 $81.01 $175.52 $2,106.26
Employee + Child $84.43 $182.93 $2,195.18 $102.42 $221.91 $2,662.92 $113.22 $245.31 $2,943.72
Employee + Children $108.81 $235.76 $2,829.06 $131.94 $285.87 $3,430.44 $145.83 $315.97 $3,791.58
Employee + Spouse $120.90 $261.95 $3,143.40 $146.61 $317.66 $3,811.86 $162.03 $351.07 $4,212.78
Employee + Spouse with Surcharge $190.90 $413.62 $4,963.40 $216.61 $469.32 $5,631.86 $232.03 $502.73 $6,032.78
Family $181.35 $392.93 $4,715.10 $219.91 $476.47 $5,717.66 $243.05 $526.61 $6,319.30
Family + Surcharge $251.35 $544.59 $6,535.10 $289.91 $628.14 $7,537.66 $313.05 $678.28 $8,139.30

What costs are being imposed on you and your family? Be public about it. Don't just talk about it at home -- talk about it in public. Philadelphia needs to know that these payments are not as "reasonable" as the SRC claimed they would be when they announced the canceled contract.

You can also download this as a PDF to print and share with your colleagues!

So, what do these plans cost the employer? If the percentages are accurate, the total cost of the Keystone 320 plans are as follows:

  Overall Cost of Policy for the Employer
Single $6,684.60
Employee + Child $9,357.40
Employee + Children $12,030.20
Employee + Spouse $13,369.20
Family $20,051.20

New Flyer: Calculate Your REAL 'Shared Sacrifice'

Want to explain to your neighbors, friends, and colleagues how much teachers already 'give back' to our schools and communities?

Our new flyer compares the exact dollar amounts teachers already contribute everyday in our classrooms and two years without a contract, side-by-side with the additional REAL costs of the SRC's new health givebacks (hint: it's way more than $70 a month!).

Download the printable flyer here, and share widely in your building and community how much teachers really sacrifice!

(And while you're at it, remind them that it's not about the money anyways- this is the SRC and Corbett playing politics with the lives of teachers and students).

Screenshot_2014-10-08_at_6.42.53_PM.png Screenshot_2014-10-08_at_6.43.05_PM.png

If you want more details on how to calculate the true total of your 'shared sacrifice' under the proposed health plan, here's the full breakdown of costs and benefits (download the PDF here):



EMERGENCY MEETING: Thurs 10/9 4-7pm at Tierra Colombiana (5th and Wyoming)

Emergency Public School Community Meeting: COME MAKE A PLAN TO HIT THE STREETS AND FIGHT BACK!

Thurs 10/9 4-7pm at Tierra Colombiana (5th and Wyoming, 4535 N. 5th St., 19140)

On Monday, in a barely-announced meeting designed to keep the public out, the Philadelphia School Reform Commission (SRC) voted to cancel the PFT contract and require that members begin paying for benefits out of their own paychecks. This radical attack on schools is yet another move by Gov. Corbett’s SRC to deprive people of their hard-earned money, benefits, and way of life.

Join educators, parents, staff, students, and neighbors from across the city for drinks, snacks and solidarity. We will be strategizing next steps in the ongoing fight for the schools our city deserves. New and old, school-based and not: all are welcome. Come share your opinion and hear from other Philadelphians who know that we can’t cut our way to high-quality schools. 

Please email, share, and tweet widely. And don't forget to put next week's SRC meeting on your calendar for an all-out rally.

If you can't make it tomorrow, WE will be hosting follow-up community meetings in the next two weeks


It's Not About The Money

Today, the School Reform Commission unilaterally voted to cancel the contract and require that PFT members begin paying for their benefits out of their own paychecks.


In this age of supposed austerity, this proposal can masquerade as being reasonable. After all, many public employees already pay for benefits out of their own paychecks. Teachers should chip in like the rest of working America, right?


The thing is, SRC’s demands have nothing to do with providing cash for the district, and everything to do with attacking teachers and their union for political gain.


Let’s look at the facts to see what’s really going on.

  • The District has already saved millions with teacher salary freezes -- but won’t admit it or say how much. Any teacher who hasn’t yet reached the top of the salary schedule receives an average salary increase of $2862.63 each year. With this second year of freezes, now these teachers are short an average of $5725.26 for 2014-215, but the district refuses say just how much these givebacks add up to, or even acknowledge this sacrifice already imposed on teachers.
  • $43.8 million may seem like a big number, but it’s a tiny piece of the pie. What the districts claims they will save with these benefits payments represents only 1.4% of the district’s 2014 operating budget. To see how the costs break down, check out this interactive visualization of the complete budget. (Try picking out which two central office budgets come closest to $43.8 million.)


Not yet convinced? Consider a few other expenses and revenue options:

  • Banks are currently making a fortune off of the district. Nearly 9 percent of the annual budget -- a whopping $276.4 million dollars -- goes towards debt servicing. That does not mean paying back debts. That just means paying interest on existing loans and bonds. Why is profit for big banks being valued over health care for teachers?
  • Charter operators are not being asked to give back. Non-District operated Schools represent 27.6% of the district’s budget. Since each charter network sets up its own system for benefits, SDP cannot impose an across-the-board change, but no demand for any kind of giveback is being made.
  • Philadelphia businesses are not being asked to pay their share. There are many ways that Philadelphia gives businesses a pass when it comes to supporting public education. The ten-year tax abatement has cost the city $26.1 million in potential revenue. Hotels owe the city another $2.6 million in unpaid taxes. All in all, new developments and improvements supported by tax abatements will cost the school district $50 million in 2014.
  • Philadelphia institutions aren’t, either. In the 1990’s, more than 40 tax-exempt non-profit organizations, including the University of Pennsylvania,  provided the city with $9 million dollars worth of payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT). In 2011, that dwindled to below $400,000 and has dropped even more since then. By contrast, Princeton University alone gave $7.7 million in PILOT money to their community in 2012.


So, if it’s not about the money, then what’s it about? Look carefully at what else is being demanded.

  • In their statement, SDP calls for the dismantling of the PFT Health and Welfare Fund. This office is a cornerstone of the services that the union provides. Because they are not directly in charge of the funding, the Health and Welfare office is free to work as an independent advocate for members in need of its services, putting health and well-being before costs. Employer-based benefit programs typically do the opposite, making their bottom line a financial one.
  • Even if the system for health care coverage did change, there is no reason that the Health and Welfare fund couldn’t continue to manage those programs.
  • What else did the SDP choose to cut, effective immediately? Payments to the PFT Legal Services Fund.

Let the public know -- this is not really about funding. This is an attempt to dismantle the union that defends public education in Philadelphia.

In the face of this underhanded attack, working educators will continue to honor the contract they have with the children of Philadelphia and serve them as best they can.