Working Educators Stands with Black Lives Matter

A statement of solidarity

The Working Educators Caucus of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers offers our heartfelt sympathies to the family and friends of George Floyd, who was suffocated to death by white Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on May 25, 2020. Our hearts are also heavy with grief for Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbury, Tony McDade, and thousands of families mourning loved ones killed by police. We remain incensed that police continue to take hundreds of lives every passing year.

Working Educators (WE) stands in solidarity with the tens of thousands of people taking to the streets to demand an end, once and for all, to racist state violence. Educators know too well that state violence is not carried out by the police alone. Federal, state and city officials attack Philadelphia children with budgets that undercut and undermine our public services, including public schools. Mayor Kenney is currently proposing an increase of $14 million to the police budget and drastic cuts to services that our families and our students’ families rely on. The cuts in services to Philadelphia’s poor and working class communities, combined with the over-policing of Black and brown neighborhoods, are the causes of the rage being expressed in the city’s streets today. We refuse to let COVID-19 be the pretext for deepening structural racism in our city.

Now is the time for the mayor’s appointed school board to divest from school policing and invest in hiring more school counselors who provide comprehensive mental health support; clinical and school psychologists; and additional related service providers and support for students receiving special education services. Currently, there are fewer than 350 school counselors across the district. Safety concerns should be addressed by investing upstream, in mental health professionals equipped to support the social and emotional well-being of students and help resolve conflicts constructively. The Minneapolis Public School Board has taken steps to end their district’s contract with the Minneapolis Police Department. Philadelphia must not wait for another tragedy in our own city to follow suit. 

Further, WE call on Philadelphia’s educational leadership to formally endorse the National Black Lives Matter Week of Action and work with Philadelphia educators to infuse its principles and curricula into our year-round educational programs. This effort was developed locally and embraced nationally to empower and educate students, teachers, and communities on issues surrounding the oppression and liberation of Black, Indigenous and People of Color, issues magnified by the murder of George Floyd and a long list of victims before him. 

WE affirms the value and dignity of all Black people. We love our students and deepen our resolve to fight for racial justice, in collaboration with our fellow union members, the Philly Student Union, the Our City Our Schools Coalition, and all who struggle for human liberation.  Together we will fight for and win the fully-funded, quality public schools that our students deserve--ones that are equipped with the resources to support all aspects of our students’ physical, emotional and intellectual development.

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