Defend Public Education

  • Push back against Charter Schools- Write a letter TONIGHT!



    “No child should be harmed so another child can be helped.”

    This is what Donna Cooper, executive director of PCCY, wrote earlier this week about the 39 Charter School applications which the SRC will be voting on this Wednesday, February 18th at 3:30pm.

    The pressure is growing for the SRC to vote down these charter school applications and support public, neighborhood schools. As Philadelphia educators, parents, and community members, we can make it clear that Philadelphia supports strengthening its public schools- rather than putting scarce resources into a new round of financially and pedagogically questionable charters. 

    If you haven't written a letter yet to the SRC opposing one of the charter schools threatening your school or neighborhood, the deadline to submit letters is tomorrow at noon. Take a look at our step-by-step instructions (including analysis and criticism provided by the district's own Charter School Office), and then make sure to send your letter to [email protected] and [email protected] so we can keep track of how many letters were sent.

    Then, please spread this action in any education and parent networks you have. We've been hearing that parent email lists around the city are blowing up with parents opposes to these new charters- let's make sure they know that we're taking action!

    Want some inspiration? The letters that have already been written and submitted show a deep love for the students and communities that make our public schools so special. Take a look, and then write your own today!

    Screenshot_2015-02-15_at_6.38.11_PM.png ~ ~




    ~ ~


  • How to Protect your School and Neighborhood from Charter Takeover


    On Monday, the School District announced that it would be voting on the 39 charter applications next Wednesday, 2/18. The slots to speak at that meeting have already filled up, but the district is still accepting public comment until noon on Monday 2/16.

    We think that the best chance we have to influence the outcome of the charter vote is to provide specific, detailed objections to charters that are threatening the zip codes where we live and work.

    Doubtful? Check out the charter application analysis reports -- the district did NOT play nice in their critiques of the holes in the applications. If you don't feel like combing through the reports one by one, take this quiz to see some of the harsh words the evaluators had for different proposals.

    Reading the reports, it's also clear that the board played close attention to how much support was given for individual schools -- and also whether that support was authentic or cookie-cutter. (Independence Charter got a note in their report that they sent 100 letters... but that they were a form letter.)

    We're looking to send at least 500 individualized letters to the SRC by next Monday.

    Charter Letter Instruction Kit

    To participate, do two things:

    1. Download the instructions and follow them.

    2. Collect the letters and e-mail them to both [email protected] and [email protected]. No number is too small (or too large)! If you can get your whole school on board by calling a letter-writing session before report card conferences on Thursday, AWESOME. If you are a parent and you can get two neighbors to write, great. If there's no school targeting your zip codes, go one zip code over or write about a neighborhood that matters to you.

    Remember, this is NOT a campaign against all charter applications together -- we already published that letter. Instead, we are asking you to take a look at which school(s) are near your home and work, explore what critiques were made of their applications by the district, and then write the educated, thoughtful commentary that the district and potentially the charter appeal board in Harrisburg need to hear.

  • Philly Teachers, Professors, Parents and Community Urge SRC to "Stop the 40 Charters"

    Want to help in the work to "Stop the 40 Charters"? Email [email protected] to join our Organizing Committee!


    January 29, 2015 

    Commissioner William J. Green, Chair

    Commissioner Feather Houstoun

    Commissioner Farah Jimenez

    Commissioner Marjorie Neff

    Commissioner Sylvia Simms

    Philadelphia School Reform Commission

    440 North Broad Street

    Suite 101

    Philadelphia, PA 191230


    Re: Charter School Applications


    Dear Commissioners Green, Houstoun, Jimenez, Neff, and Simms, 

    We are a group of Philadelphia educators, community members and parents who would like to testify about the 40 applications for new charter schools that your body is reviewing. We operate on the premise that the goal is for all public schools to provide an excellent, equitable and holistic educational environment for all children. Thus, we implore you not to approve any more charter schools to open in our city at this time.

    Looking at finances alone, opening more charters is not a sensible option for our already cash-starved district. As former School Reform Commissioner Joseph Dworetzky has noted in his recent post in The Notebook, the district loses $5,500 per student when they transfer to a charter, and $10,000 per student when they transfer from a parochial or independent school, for an average loss of $7,000 per student. According to Dworetzky, rather than going towards supporting our schools, taxpayer dollars go towards mitigating this loss. In an era where we are already operating on a severe budget deficit, we cannot risk the loss of any more money or resources for our students and teachers.

    Academically, existing data about the benefits to a student attending a charter school versus a traditional public school are inconclusive, as are data about student transfer or dropout rate from charter schools, according to a recent report by Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY). Looking at the organizations that have applied to open charter schools in Philadelphia, PCCY notes that the charter schools that these organizations already operate do not reflect the demographic of traditional public schools in the district; there are fewer minority, low-income and English Language Learning (ELL) students on their rosters. Even given this statistic, according to the PCCY report, 48% of applicants’ schools report that fewer than half of the students at the schools they currently operate are on grade level for reading and math. Further, a recent Stanford report found that in reading, as compared to their counterparts in traditional public schools (TPS), 56% of students in charter schools nationally showed no significant difference in academic growth between 2010 and 2011, and while 25% did significantly better, 19% did significantly worse. In math, 40% showed no difference as compared to their TPS counterparts in their scores, while 29% did significantly better and 31% did significantly worse. 

    Philadelphia is our nation’s poorest big city; 84% of our students qualify as low-income. Because the data are so inconclusive, it seems that a problematic ideology of experimentation undergirds the district’s willingness to consider increasing the number of charter schools in our city. It is ethically unacceptable to experiment with the education or future of any child, especially those who may come from more challenging backgrounds or circumstances.

    As people who teach and learn in Philadelphia’s schools, and as parents, we know that the problem of educational inequity and school failure is much bigger than teachers and schools: it has to do with people’s access to health care, healthy food, steady employment and a reliable income, early childhood education, and clean water and air, amongst other factors. While there seems to be no panacea for the amalgamation of social issues that affect children’s school experiences, increasing the number of charter schools, and thus, competition, in education does not help to solve any of our city’s problems. Former New York City Schools’ Chancellor Joel Klein advocates in the recent documentary The Lottery for parents to improve education in the city by “vot[ing] with their feet”, in other words, for refusing to send their children to neighborhood public schools that are purported to be low-quality. Yet, if a good public education were free and universal, why would parents have to vote or compete at all for their children’s welfare? Rather than increasing competition and exacerbating an already inequitable schooling environment, we advocate for working together to ensure that every child has, at the very least, access to a free and quality education, regardless of which school they attend or which neighborhood they live in. 

    Indeed, charter schools in cities across the United States have become vehicles not only for experimentation, but for privatization and advancement of corporate interests. This is a sad distortion of Al Shanker’s original vision: he conceived of charters as independent, non-faith based public schools that could be started by special interest groups who worked alongside traditional public schools to best meet the needs of diverse populations of students, and to maximize the expertise of teachers and administrators.

    Because we do not yet have enough data to say whether charter schools operate in the best interest of the youth on their rosters, at this point, Philadelphia doesn't need more charter schools, whatever their brands or track records might be.

    What we need is a commitment to strengthen our existing schools. We need leaders to call upon our state to fund all schools fully and equitably. Finally, we need vision that will help us pull our city's schools from the wreckage brought by severe underfunding and into a new phase that will allow us to meet all students' needs and aspirations.

    Education is a public good, not a business enterprise. It is time to fulfill the promise of public education, and provide quality schools to all of our city’s students.



    Amy Brown, MST, Ph.D.

    Educational Anthropologist

    Critical Writing Fellow, University of Pennsylvania

    Supporting Member of the Caucus of Working Educators


    Kristin R. Luebbert, M.Ed, MS.Ed

    Reading Specialist

    School District of Philadelphia

    Caucus of Working Educators


    Anissa Weinraub, M.Ed

    English and Theater Arts Teacher

    School District of Philadelphia

    Caucus of Working Educators


    Mark Stern, Ph.D.

    Assistant Professor

    Department of Educational Studies, Colgate University

    Visiting Scholar, Education, Culture, and Society Program

    Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania

    Supporting Member of the Caucus of Working Educators


    Madeleine Nist, M.A.

    Retired, School District of Philadelphia

    Caucus of Working Educators


    Tamara Anderson, M.Ed


    Lead Faculty

    University of Phoenix

    Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools

    Caucus of Working Educators (Supporting Member/Steering Committee)


    Nick Palazzolo

    Supporting Member of the Caucus of Working Educators


    Alison McDowell


    Supporting Member of the Caucus of Working Educators

    Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools


    Eileen Duffey Bernt, RN MS

    Certified School Nurse

    Caucus of Working Educators

    Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools


    Mariana Pardes, M.A.

    Research Associate, Villanova University

    Resident of Philadelphia

    Supporting Member of the Caucus of Working Educators


    Jody Cohen

    Term Professor of Education

    Bryn Mawr/Haverford Education Program


    Susan Clampet-Lundquist, Ph.D.


    Associate Professor

    Department of Sociology, Saint Josephs University


    Encarna Rodriguez

    Associate Professor

    Department of Educational Leadership

    Saint Josephs University


    Carolyn T. Adams, Ph.D.

    Department of Geography and Urban Studies

    Temple University


    Magali Sarfatti-Larson, Ph.D.

    Professor of Sociology (Emerita)

    Temple University


    Kelley Collings, M.Ed, MS.Ed

    Math & Science Teacher

    School District of Philadelphia

    Caucus of Working Educators

    Teacher Action Group

    Teachers Lead Philly


    Sonia M. Rosen, Ph.D.

    Assistant Professor

    School of Education

    Arcadia University


    Frank Bernt, Ph. D.


    Department of Teacher Education

    Saint Josephs University


    Barbara Ferman, Ph.D


    Department of Political Science

    Temple University


    Sukey Blanc, Ph.D.

    Principal Researcher

    Creative Research & Evaluation, LLC


    Elaine Simon, Ph.D.

    Co-Director, Urban Studies Program

    University of Pennsylvania


    Jerusha Conner, Ph.D.

    Associate Professor of Education

    Villanova University


    Rhiannon Maton, M.Ed

    Ph.D Candidate, Graduate School of Education

    University of Pennsylvania


    Nina Johnson, PhD

    Instructor, Graduate School of Education

    University of Pennsylvania


    Grace Player, M.A.

    Ph.D. Candidate, Graduate School of Education

    University of Pennsylvania


    David Hensel


    School District of Philadelphia

    Caucus of Working Educators, PFT


    Shaw MacQueen


    School District of Philadelphia

    Caucus of Working Educators


    James Arrington, M.Ed

    Ed.D Candidate, Graduate School of Education

    University of Pennsylvania


    Thomas Quinn


    School District of Philadelphia

    Caucus of Working Educators, PFT


    Jesse Gottschalk, M.S.Ed


    School District of Philadelphia

    Caucus of Working Educators, PFT


    Kaitlin McCann


    School District of Philadelphia



    Peggy Marie Savage

    N.A.A.C.P-A.C.T-S.O Planning Committee

    Upward Bound Math & Science Symposium Judge

    N.A.A.C.P-A.C.T-S.O Lead Science Judge

    W.E. Working Caucus of the P.F.T

    P.F.T. Liaison PLN 5/7

    E.L.L. Content Friendly Teacher 5th Grade
    Philadelphia Writing Project ( E.L.L)

    Philadelphia Teachers Convening Executive Team


    Lisa Hantman


    School District of Philadelphia

    Citizen of Philadelphia


    Monica Clark, M.S.

    Doctoral Student

    College of Education

    Temple University

    Citizen of Philadelphia


    cc: Dr. William Hite, Superintendent

    Paul Kihn, Deputy Superintendent

    Matthew Stanski, CFP

    Claire Landau, Assistant to the SRC

    Sophie Bryan, Director, Strategy Delivery Unit

  • Charter School Testimony: Alison McDowell

    alison.jpgHere's my testimony from Thursday's charter hearing. It was so odd. There weren't any SRC or District officials, just a lady up front with a laptop. Strange. On the positive side, I was surprised given the crowd, that quite a few people clapped when I was done and someone I don't even know thanked me on Twitter. We are slowly making an impact. We just have to keep showing up.

    It is not a choice when they close your neighborhood school.

    It is not a choice when they starve your school of staff and resources with the goal of creating an unsafe environment.

    It is not a choice when in exchange for much needed private funds, schools are compelled to fire over half their teachers.

    It is not a choice when stranded costs from charter enrollment drain resources away from regular public schools.

    What about those of us who choose and fight for non-charter schools?

    We don’t have branded t-shirts and glossy posters, but we have a fierce devotion to the idea that schools are community anchors.

    We believe that every neighborhood should have a school that accepts anyone who lives in that community-regardless of their home life or testing prowess or special needs.

    We believe that public schools are the foundation of democracy, and that charter schools are chipping away at that foundation.

    We believe that soon we will be in the same boat as New Orleans, Newark, and closer to home, York-very soon.

    The choice will have been made. Not by parents, but by those who tug at the strings of a broken political system.

    Charters are a false choice. They are the ones doing the choosing-gaming the system and counseling out the unworthy come January or February before testing season gets underway.

    They quietly put out applications requesting illegal information that helps them screen out children who lack supports at home to burnish their reputations.

    They expect a double standard when it comes to data-driven evaluations.

    They expect us to look the other way at the fraud and ethics violations that have become a norm in this industry.

    I am here today to say that I stand with neighborhood schools. I endorse the community school approach. And I request that you look at the barriers to access audit done by PCCY and PA Ed Law Center in April 2013. Any school on that list with identified barriers should absolutely not be given any more schools.

  • An Inside Report from the Charter School Hearings

    By Diane Payne

    On Monday, I went to 440 N. Broad Street to testify regarding the 40 charter school applications being submitted this week.  I wasn’t able to be there all day for the presentations, so I didn’t hear the bells and whistles that Monday’s group of charter school applicants presented. I was speaker 29 and discovered that a fellow public school advocate was speaker 30. I left after the 30th speaker and want to note that only four people were there to speak against the expansion of charters. The 26 other speakers were students, parents, politicians, community leaders and charter school personnel that spoke in favor of their particular charter of choice.  This included the newly elected president of the NAACP. 

    In addition to hearing the virtues of the “charter of choice”, it was very disheartening to often hear the disparaging remarks made about public schools.  I really, really urge any public school advocate to try to get down to 440 N. Broad Street, 2nd floor auditorium on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday to offer your 3 minutes of public testimony to say “NO MORE CHARTERS” and to support our neighborhood public schools.  The total time from sign in to the end of speaker 30 was 1 1/2 hours.

    Here is my testimony from Monday.

    I am speaking today to request that the SRC suspend the consideration of any further charter school applications. The current rhetoric of our families needing “choice” is a false dialogue laced with false hope and false promises.  What you are deciding today isn’t about giving parents choice it is about taking away a basic, founding principle of our country…a free and quality public education for all. Not a mish-mash of unregulated “choices” which promotes itself as an easy answer to complex problems.  The complex problems of poverty, English as a second language, broken families, abuse, unequal job opportunity, lack of health care, crime to name a few, do not have easy answers and will not be fixed by Charter Schools. There is more and more hard evidence coming out on a daily basis that point to the problems inherent in charter school expansions. To name only some:

    *Charter school expansion causes the further starving of public schools

    *Fraud and financial mismanagement that enrich savvy members of the charter school network via real estate deals, management contracts, service contracts, equipment purchases, and pricey CEO salaries

    *Lack of transparency in operation and finance

    *Re-segregation of student populations

    *Failure to mirror the neighborhood school’s demographics because of how students are admitted and then how students are retained if problems of any nature arise

    *Here in Philadelphia, an absolute budget crisis that cannot sustain any further draining of resources

    *And last but not least a total lack of available oversight again due to lack of resources

    Although there are reputable and honorable charter schools functioning and helping children that do not mirror these problems, it is difficult if not impossible with the lack of fair regulation and oversight to manage the current number of schools, much less additional ones.

    These problems relating to charter schools are not unique to Philadelphia. It is a nationwide issue that is harming our poor and urban areas. You will notice that you rarely find Charter Schools in wealthy suburban districts and that is only because you don’t find the complex problems I previously mentioned in those neighborhoods either.  Expansion of charter schools will not be the savior of education but they could be the demise of a cornerstone of our democracy, fair and equitable public school for all.

    Please do not expand charter school options at this time.  Thank you.  

  • Working Educators in the News!

    WE has been featured in a number of big news stories recently! Please read and share widely, so that more educators and community members can learn about our work strengthening our union and public schools from the ground up.


    -Earlier this month, The Notebook covered our First Annual Convention:

    Caucus of teachers' union focused on social justice holds first conference

    On Nov. 8, the Caucus of Working Educators (WE) held its first annual convention at the Old First Reformed United Church of Christ in Philadelphia, where more than 125 teachers, counselors, and education advocates from Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey came to learn more about strategizing and organizing. 

    “It’s a get-together, it’s a rally, it’s an informational setting,” said Kristin Luebbert, the communications chair of the caucus. “It’s all those things, to help expand the work we need to do for our children right now.”

    The keynote speaker, Yohuru Williams, a professor of history at Fairfield University and a member of the Badass Teachers Association, compared the mission of the caucus and the goal of its first conference with Martin Luther King Jr.’s goals during the civil rights movement in the 1960s.

    “I want to be clear: We have the power to transform education,” said Williams. “I want to be clear, because our schools are not failing, it is our democracy that is failing. And we’re going to need to address and correct that if we’re going to be successful in endeavors to preserve public education.”

    -Then, this week's edition of the Philadelphia City Paper wrote a profile of our work so far and where we're going:

    Philly teachers hatch a militancy plot

    WE, which boasts 141 dues-paying members, held its first convention on Nov. 8. Its quick growth could shape the larger fight to defend public education in Philadelphia, where thousands of jobs have been eliminated, charter schools have expanded rapidly with little financial oversight, dozens of schools have closed, preparation for high-stakes testing dominates much of the curriculum and now, because of the attempt to impose health-care cost-sharing, underpaid teachers face what is effectively a salary cut.

    The PFT is the single most powerful force fighting for fair funding for city schools and opposing school closings and layoffs. Its weakness and inability to mobilize its members undermines the entire movement to save Philadelphia public schools.

    The WE Caucus takes inspiration from Chicago's militant Caucus of Rank and File Educators, or CORE, which took over leadership of the Chicago Teachers Union in 2010. Then, in 2012, they led teachers out on a high-profile strike that grabbed national attention and, more important, received widespread support from parents and community members.

    -This weekend, Philadelphia Magazine wrote a follow-up story to the City Paper article. Rather than citing that article, which you can read here, we'd like to offer the following response:

    We are excited about every conversation on how to strengthen our union, and encourage everyone to read the full piece at the City Paper to get a more complete perspective.
    While WE appreciate the shout-out, Mr. McQuade's focus on intra-union politics misses the main point of our caucus: to energize the rank and file membership of the PFT, build deep partnerships with parent and community groups, and fight for a vibrant and sustainably-funded public education system in Philadelphia. We want every teacher, parent, and student to feel supported and empowered to stand up proudly for the schools our students deserve. No matter who they are, where they work, or who they associate with. 


    ***Bonus news story: WE members Alison McDowell and Diane Payne were featured in various news outlets wearing their WE shirts at last week's City Council Hearing on Standardized Testing. Look out for more info on how WE is supporting the Opt-Out movement soon.

  • When's the public hearing for new charter school applications?

    As recently reported in The Notebook, charter school applications must have a review that is open to the public. The first round of reviews are now scheduled.

    We strongly encourage educators and community members to look up whether charter schools are targeting their zip code with their application -- and then attend that application's meeting to let the School District of Philadelphia know that we are committed to our public schools in these neighborhoods.

    We know that educators are working during most of these meetings, but we urge you to contact your parents and community members so that they can turn out and represent your school.

    Let the review board know -- charter schools are not a sustainable option for our district!

    The only reason that charter applications are even being considered again is due to an add-on clause to the Cigarette Bill Tax. Parents at Steel and Marin showed the District last spring that they did not want charters in their neighborhoods. Now there are 40 applications that need the same kind of community input.

    The meetings will be held at the School District Central Office, 440 North Broad Street.

    Proposed School Name Initial hearing date Time Area of City Zip Code
    Germantown Community Charter School 8-Dec 11:45 AM Germantown 19144
    Liguori Academy Charter School 8-Dec 12:25 PM unkown unknown
    Philadelphia Career and Technical Academy 8-Dec 12:05 PM Germantown 19144
    String Theory Charter School - East Falls 8-Dec 1:50 PM East Falls 19129
    String Theory Charter School - Greys Ferry 8-Dec 2:05 PM South Philly 19146
    String Theory Charter School - Southeast 8-Dec 2:30 PM South Philly 19148
    The Partnership School for Science and Innovation - MaST Community Charter School 8-Dec 12:45 PM Center City 19106, 19146
    Urban STEM Academy 8-Dec 1:30 PM NW Philly 19138
    ASPIRA Ramon E. Betances Charter School 10-Dec 11:30 AM North Philly 19120
    Congreso Academy Charter High School 10-Dec 11:50 AM North Philly 19133
    Esperanza Elementary Charter School 10-Dec 12:35 PM North Philly 19140
    Friendship Public Charter School 10-Dec 10:50 AM North Philly unknown
    KIPP North Philadelphia Charter School 10-Dec 10:30 AM North Philly 19132
    Leon H. Sullivan Opportunities Charter School 10-Dec 12:55 PM North Philly unknown
    Mastery Charter School - Gillespie Campus 10-Dec 2:25 PM North Philly 19140
    Mastery Charter School - North Philadelphia Campus 10-Dec 2:45 PM North Philly 19132
    New Foundations Charter School - Brewerytown 10-Dec 11:10 AM North Philly 19121
    PHASE 4 America Charter School 10-Dec 1:15 PM North Philly unknown
    TECH Freire Charter School 10-Dec 1:35 PM North Philly 19132
    The Pavilion Charter School for Exceptional Students 10-Dec 2:05 PM North Philly 19132
    ACES Business Entrepreneur Academy Charter School 11-Dec 12:55 PM West Philly 19151
    Belmont Charter High School 11-Dec 10:10 AM West Philly 19104
    Girls' Latin of Philadelphia Charter School 11-Dec 10:30 AM West Philly 19143
    Global Leadership Academy International Charter School 11-Dec 1:15 PM West Philly 19131
    Green Woods Charter School at Overbrook Farms 11-Dec 10:50 AM West Philly 19151
    Independence Charter High School 11-Dec 11:50 AM West Philly 19104
    Independence Charter School West 11-Dec 11:30 AM West Philly 19142
    Innovative Dimensions STEAM Academy 11-Dec 11:10 AM West Philly unknown
    KIPP Dubois Charter School 11-Dec 2:25 PM West Philly 19131
    KIPP West Philadelphia Charter School 11-Dec 2:45 PM West Philly 19143
    Philadelphia Music and Dance Charter School 11-Dec 1:35 PM West Philly 19139
    PHMC Preparatory Charter School 11-Dec 2:05 PM West Philly 19143
    Richard Allen Preparatory Charter School II 11-Dec 12:35 PM West Philly 19143
    American Paradigm Charter School (Oxford Circle) 12-Dec 2:25 PM NE Philly 19111
    American Paradigm Charter School at Port Richmond 12-Dec 2:05 PM Richmond 19124
    Franklin Towne Charter Middle School 12-Dec 1:45 PM NE Philly 19137
    Keystone Preparatory Charter School 12-Dec 1:25 PM NE Philly 19135
    MaST Community Charter School - Roosevelt Campus 12-Dec 12:55 PM NE Philly 19116
    String Theory Charter School - Port Richmond 12-Dec 12:35 PM Richmond 19134
    Sustainable Roots Academy Charter School 12-Dec 12:20 PM Richmond 19125
  • Corbett's out. Now on to the bigger fight.


    Ghandi famously said "be the change you wish to see in the world". At this weekend's Working Educators First Annual Convention, we'll be sharing our visions for vibrant public schools and communities- and figuring out together how we can 'be the change' in our schools and communities to get there.

    Please join us to share your ideas and energy to defend public education and save our schools from the ground up!


    Working Educators First Annual Convention

    ***Newly added!: Lunchtime Tabletop Conversations. Topics will include our pre-service teacher campaign, opt-out, charter school teachers, and more.

    Ready to make change in your school? To defend and transform public education in Philly and beyond? 

    This convention is NOT your typical education or organizing event -- it will bring together stakeholders from across the city to help transform our public education system. 

    We will be discussing issues relating to all educators and allies fighting for our communities and schools- parent and student involvement, charter schools, and organizing skills for everyone, just to name a few (see full program below).

    Featuring organizers from Labor Notes, special guests from NYC's MORE Caucus, and Keynote Speaker Dr. Yohuru Williams.

    Join us to build educator power in Philly through practical organizing skills, strengthening our community, and planning for the future:

    Working Educators First Annual Convention
    November 8th, 10am-3pm
    Old First Reformed UCC
    151 N 4th St (at Race)
    Philadelphia, PA 19106
    Childcare and lunch provided. Come for an hour or all day!
    Please RSVP on our website or facebook to help us plan. But definitely show up whenever you can, even if you can't RSVP!

    ***Full Convention Program***

    10:15-11:00: Opening Plenary: Creating the Schools our Children Deserve
    Featuring Yohuru Williams

    11:00-12:15: Discussion Sessions:
    ~More than just Health Care!
    The Corporate Takeover of Public Education

    ~Lessons from Chicago
    How to Reinvigorate Our Union from Below

    ~Taking Back Our City
    Communities Standing Up for Democracy and Accountability

    12:15-1:00: Lunch & Tabletop Discussions
    -Pre-Service Teacher Campaign
    -Charter School Teacher Allies
    -Stories from MORE
    -Opt-Out Philly
    -Start your own!

    1:00-2:15: Training Sessions:
    ~Are You a Social Justice Unionist?
    Changing the Culture in Your School

    ~Parent Power!
    Parents and Teachers Working Together

    ~Beating Apathy
    Secrets of a Successful Organizer

    2:15-3:00: Closing Plenary: What's Next? Building the Movement

  • Convention Preview: Social Justice Unionism

    In advance of our first annual convention on Saturday, November 8th, we're previewing some of the day's sessions on our blog. This preview comes from Amy Roat, who works at Feltonville School of Arts and Sciences and will be leading the session on Social Justice Unionism.

    Many teachers consider themselves committed to social justice in their classrooms, but don't connect that to their Amy_Roat.jpgunion. Why do these two things go together?

    Simply put, our working conditions are children's learning conditions.  I know people, especially teachers, tend to be squeamish about publicly voicing their needs and  rights because it may be perceived as selfish or self-serving.  Teachers are sensitive to public opinion because we are human, but also because we have been mocked and blamed for the last ten years from many sides.  It is humiliating, and I think good teachers fear the inevitable cat-calls and jeers of the "reformers" and their supporters. We are a tough group of teachers in Philly, but we are not immune to the onslaught of criticism. It hurts.

    You've been quoted by practically every news publication in Philadelphia, and the New York Times, too. Many people are in awe of your work, but might feel intimidated by all that you do. Can you describe what the first steps are to becoming a more outspoken union member?

    A year ago in August, PFT Communications Director George Jackson called me a few days before school. Our local Fox News was looking for a regular teacher to speak about the tragic cuts we were facing in 2014.  I was recommended by my staffer who had to listen to a lot of my views at the monthly Building Rep Meetings.  I was terrified of sounding dumb and nearly balked.  George had a PR guy call to prep me and talk me into it. after we talked for a bit he said, "Hey, you're the expert, you know what you're saying and you sound knowledgeable and sincere.  You can do it."  

    After a protracted wardrobe consultation with my sister and a pep talk from my husband and brother, I was at Fox studios early in the am. You know what? They told me the same thing before I went on air. "You are the expert.  Tell us what you know. Be yourself."  The interview went well, and here I am today.  This is what I would say to teachers who want to speak out - be it at a Chapter Meeting, to a reporter, or at an SRC Meeting - "You are the expert. Tell them what your know. Be yourself. (And wear a solid color if you are going on television.)

    Based on your experience, what's one change that you think people should make to improve how their union operates in their building?

    The teachers in my school are friends - We go to happy hour. We eat cake when someone has a birthday. We have a shower if someone gets married or has a baby. If someone is sick, we ask after them. If someone needs a ride, we drive them. This is how we build our relationships and our school-based union. We actively include new members. They become family.

    When there is discord, peace-makers step up.  It is a labor, but it is a labor of love.

    Change the way you think about THE union. The union is not just the people who work on Chestnut Street. We are the union. The teachers in this school. We meet monthly, including, secretaries, counselors, paras and the nurse. We talk to the principal as a Building Committee about our mutual concerns and possible solutions. We develop our own game plan for pickets or actions. Together. No one on Chestnut Street needs to tell us what, when, why or how we do it. We are professional,  we do it all together because we are THE union!


    Amy is just one of many Caucus members who will be sharing her wisdom and skills at the convention. Register now and learn more from her on November 8th!

  • SRC Testimony: Diane Payne

    I am speaking today to Stand Up For The Truth!  This Commission took an unprecedented action in a deceitful manner and with the support of this whole body.  It was most disturbing that the newest member, Mrs. Neff, was in full cahoots with this plan since a lot of people viewed her appointment with hope.  That hope was dashed on Monday when Mrs. Neff joined Mrs. Simms as silenced speakers of truth.  Ms. Simms' audacious comment “We have to stop playing games with children”  would have been laughable except for the harm it causes. The largest players of a game are sitting right here in front of us and in Harrisburg, Mrs. Simms.

    I am picking one truth to talk about today.  The truth that what the SRC did on Monday is only a piece of a bigger plan that has been in place for 13 years and is succeeding amazingly well.  That truth is close down public education and hand it over to private, corporate interests.  Accomplish that mission by asserting that public education is failing.

    Doc. Hite was a graduate of the Broad Superintendents Academy.  This Academy is funded by billionaire Eli Broad, who is a member of the 1%.  Eli Broad is one of an influential group of billionaires who believe they can control the landscape of education for their own profit, benefit and ideology.  The method they use is simple.  Control the dialogue!!  Put out the sound bites of what sounds reasonable and wrap those sound bites, slogans and messages in myths and lies.  Get mainstream media to print it, politicians to support it (because they bankroll the politicians)…then implement policy.

    Dr. Hite, this commission and a large number of our politicians are implementing the policies that support the ideology of the Broad Academy.

    *Slash and burn public schools and open charters in the name of choice

    *Attack and attempt to weaken unions

    *Strangle budgets to help the illusion of schools failing and make it easier to promote your slash and burn policy

    *Implement the business model of chaos and disruption

    *Introduce high stakes testing and tie it to school and teacher evaluation and high school graduation

    *Force Common Core Standards onto schools, standards that are mired in controversy and debate

    *Enlist TFA recruits who enter the classroom with 5 weeks of training and who rarely stay in the profession for more than a few years in place of fully accredited, qualified, dedicated teachers

    Here’s the thing about all of these policies - they are built on the premise that public schools are failing....our public schools are not failing!!  Zip codes are failing.  This commission does not use evidence or research…here are just a few respected authors that refute your policies with evidence and research.  But, hey, that is not the dialogue that will allow you to pillage and plunder our schools and neighborhoods. Our urban schools are a reflection of the larger problems in our society and deserve unfailing support in every sense of the word and honest dialogue about ways to improve that are carried on with educators and community members AT THE TABLE.