A few important goals of the Caucus of Working Educators are to encourage and enable fellow PFT members and supporters of public education to be as informed and active as they can be in local politics. We also want to enhance and increase democratic values and actions in our schools, in our union, and all throughout our city.
We saw the power of democracy in the way Steel Elementary parents overwhelmingly voted to keep their school public, causing Mastery and the School District to concede and respect their wishes. We see it in the way the parents of Munoz-Marin continue to stand up for what it is right, while dealing with some very wrong headed attempts to move the goalposts. We must follow the lead of these two inspiring school communities and continue to build on the example they've set throughout Philadelphia.
On Sunday, May 4th, the Caucus of Working Educators, inspired by these parents, organized a canvass during the Broad Street. Run. Caucus of WE members and volunteers collected signatures for a ballot initiative asking the public to call upon our state government to abolish the School Reform Commission and return our city's schools to local control. The Caucus of WE has created a document that explains the initiative and gives tips on correctly gathering signatures and getting them properly notarized. Download the PDF here.
This referendum will give Philadelphia voters, whose voices often aren't heard by our appointed SRC, the chance to weigh in on who is running our public schools. Last Sunday, Caucus of WE members and volunteers collected signatures from voters at strategic spots along Broad Street, some of us met and continued near the finish, and then we just kept right on canvassing during our after party in FDR Park. Nearly every voter we encountered was willing to sign.
The form can take a bit of time to fill out, so just as important is using this referendum as a conversation starter to engage, educate, and make a connection with each voter about how our kids are suffering. A few tips on how to do this well:
- Discuss with them how the SRC has been running our schools for over thirteen years and things just keep getting worse. Make sure they know that many of our kids have no full time nurse, no full time counselor, no school library, no technology class, no music, no art, no books, no supplies, and on and on. Implore them to stay informed, get involved, and take back local control of our city with us.
- After they've signed, explain that our kids need them working to elect a new governor and advocating for an elected school board. Making that connection with each voter face to face is the true value of this initiative.
What did we learn from our canvass of the Broad Street Run?
- Always have voter registration cards handy. If someone tells you they aren't a registered voter, stress the importance of them registering.
- You will encounter families and groups, so out of respect for their time, always have two or three clipboards to pass around so that voters can fill it out faster, but make sure to continue to engage the group in the important conversation of local control.
- It is huge plus to have a friend or two with you. You draw strength from each other, share advice, and it always helps to feel a little less alone. If you know a friend is going to canvass, please try to give them a hand. Being able to work alongside dedicated educators and volunteers on Saturday made the canvass an interesting, entertaining, and empowering experience.
So, what are our next actions?
On Thursday 5/15, we invite you to join members of WE, parents, and principals as we participate in a Lobby Day at City Hall. Working with Education Voters PA, we'll be part of a press conference at 4 PM, focusing on the lack of funding currently in place for our students and the terrible consequences that could come without additional help from our City Council members. We plan to present a vision for what our students truly deserve. Following the press conference, we'll be meeting in groups with our lawmakers, giving them a first hand account of what our kids and families are going through and why additional support is so greatly needed.
On Friday 5/16, we'll hold our second WE Run Philly Schools rally at School District Headquarters. The first rally in April made a powerful statement, as students, parents, teachers, and supporters of public education ran many laps around the block,. They showed strength and courage as they ran against the widespread neglect that has taken so much from their fellow students. The adults were also a huge help as they ran with them, got them water, and held signs along Broad Street advocating for them. We will have many more students running this month and we need as many supporters as possible to be there to help them. Please consider doing your part to help these wonderful children and families with their efforts.
For information on future events, please sign up for the Caucus of Working Educators e-mail list!