Today, Teacher Action Group is sending out the following letter:
To all candidates running for office in Pennsylvania in 2014:
As we all know, education is a critical issue in Philadelphia — now, and always. As a city-wide coalition of teachers and education allies, Teacher Action Group represents thousands of votes and would like to know your views on education policy in Philadelphia.
To those ends, we have created a poll that we are sending to all candidates running in 2014. Your answers will be shared with the public, and could lead to an endorsement from our group.
As the voting public, we need our candidates to be crystal clear on their viewpoints and approach towards public education in Philadelphia. The future of our city depends on it.
TAG Core Members
Here are just a few of the statements we are asking candidates to agree or disagree with:
“School Districts should have a locally elected school board instead of a state appointed commission.“
“All elementary school students should be able to attend a school within walking distance of their home (30 minutes or less).”
“Teachers and principals should have control over the curriculum and learning in their buildings.“
Email and tweet at candidates to encourage them to respond to our survey! Let them know that your vote depends on their responses. You should also attend the Candidates Forum on Saturday, November 23rd at Temple University from 4-6 PM, hosted by the Pennsylvania Working Families Party.
Teacher Action Group commends the PFT for this moment of transparency in their negotiating progress. We are also open to the possible givebacks mentioned so far — a freeze on across-the-board salary increases, plus a willingness to “make changes to our health care and benefits.” We welcome and encourage further communications from union leadership in addition to membership feedback as this process resolves.
As teachers in Philadelphia, we are most concerned about working in not just functional, but stable and supported school environments. Our schools need to be fully staffed and prepared to meet students’ social, emotional, and academic needs on the first day of school. To these ends, we believe that all staff laid off last June should be restored, ideally to the communities and environments that they helped build.
We would also like to help clarify a common misunderstanding about the PFT’s proposed concession on salary increases – the proposal suggests that members will forgo the possibility of an across-the-board raise,not that they will forgo the “step” raises many of them receive each year commensurate with their years of service.
We support the PFT’s protection of teacher salaries. Gutting the wages of this city’s educators–teachers, administrators, and other professionals–provides the school district with a quick fix it absolutely cannot afford in the long run. As has already been frequently reported, Philadelphia teachers make 19% less than their immediate suburban counterparts. Quite simply, the city cannot decrease salaries and expect its workforce to stick around.
This summer has been a painful preview of what could become a permanent reality in Philadelphia. Students and parents, despite their constant protests, have been sent the message that local and state legislatures are not supporting their futures. Some of the most talented members of our workforce have already been turned into professional refugees, scurrying out of the city for jobs that acknowledge their abilities with commensurate pay and respect. Many with secure positions have also seen the writing on the wall and moved to schools in the suburbs. Teachers who remain are torn between the desire to help their schools get ready to open and the injustice of doing the work of laid-off staff. The city itself has attracted negative attention as a formerly vibrant place in decline.
Unfortunately, both the SDP and the PA Department of Education have already rejected the PFT’s current proposal as insufficient. That Governor Corbett’s administration has forsaken Philadelphia and its schools is undeniable. But why have city leaders allowed the shortcomings of the state to fall on the backs of our teachers? The members of the PFT cannot carry the financial burden and also provide the high quality, competitive education Philadelphia students deserve — nor should they be expected to.
The stakes are too high for this contract negotiation to be shrouded in secrecy. By sharing the terms of their current proposal, the PFT keeps the membership and the general public informed, and allows the Philadelphia community to work together against the incredible forces that threaten the future of our city. The union should continue to be responsive, open, and vocal in this moment of crisis.
As thousands of educators and staff members, and hundreds of thousands of students walked through the doors of our schools this morning, the weight of the SRC’s vote to pass the ‘doomsday budget’ fell upon us. This is truly a disheartening day in Philadelphia.
But we have faced too many of these days already. And we cannot withstand much more in our Philadelphia public schools.
Instead, we must understand what is really at play, and then build the power we need to push through a transformed vision of education – one that is rooted in fairness, equity, and democracy.
We need to understand this as a failure of leadership to stand for our children and our city’s future. From the State’s shameful budget priorities, to the City’s unwillingness to fight for the funding our students deserve, to the SDP’s complicity in the decimation of our public schools – our leaders have failed and abandoned us. Therefore, true leadership is going to have to come from us.
We need to understand this as an extension of a privatization agenda bought and paid for by some of the richest individuals in our nation. We need to do our homework to understand who is pulling the purse strings and shaping the destruction of public education, who is getting money and favor while our majority poor children are relegated into substandard, under-resourced schools.
Lastly, 59 years after Brown vs. Board of Education, we in Philadelphia must understand that this is a continuation of the historic fight for civil rights. We must rekindle the fight for racial justice and push back against this current form of segregation and its locking-in of a tiered system of education where it is a privilege to go to functioning schools.
Teacher Action Group will continue with these understandings at the core of our work. We recognize that true leadership must come from those directly affected, and therefore, we as educators must build up the political pressure to force a different reality in Philadelphia.
In the next few months, we are going to:
Have trainings to help develop ourselves as effective teacher leaders, organizers, and media makers
Do community outreach and build teacher-parent unity
Work with PCAPS – a coalition of teachers, parents, students, and workers – to push for the funding our schools deserve
Work with Decarcerate PA – a coalition of groups focused on ending prison expansion – to shift the State’s funding priorities to schools, not prisons
Host meet-ups for teachers to improve our practice so we can be the best we can even in the face of this ‘doomsday’
On June 21st outside the steps of the School District Headquarters, over 200 people met for the first ever People’s School Reform Commission (SRC) meeting. Teachers, parents, community members and students took back local, democratic control of OUR District and demanded full funding of our schools.
In this moment of budget cuts and massive teacher and staff lay-offs, the School District continues to make decisions to dismantle our public schools — eliminating vital school-based programs while funding unproven pet projects, and eroding public and elected officials’ confidence in the District’s administration to handle additional funding.
At the meeting, dozens spoke out, sharing personal stories and showing the true, human side of the budget cuts and layoffs.
One student, Crystal Pulle, a 9th grader from Kensington Urban Education HS, said, “We’re losing many excellent teachers and programs at my school. Next year, when class size goes up, so will student frustration. Students will feel like they’re getting even less attention, behavior issues will increase, and even more students will drop out. I’m prepared to do whatever it takes to fight for a quality education for my fellow students and me.”
People’s Commissioner, Rev. Jesse Brown gave voice to the People’s frustrations, “We refuse to let the District, city and state sell out our students, teachers and communities to the highest bidder in order to balance their budget.”
The People’s SRC voted and passed their one resolution:
Whereas, the School District has created this crisis by mismanaging funds;
And whereas the Pennsylvania state government has shown decreasing investment in public education;
And whereas there ARE resources available to fund an excellent public school system in Philadelphia;
Resolved: We will fully and equitably fund schools by following these three steps:
Step #1: The state government will provide money to Philadelphia schools by:
Using money from the state’s rainy day fund — there IS a surplus of MILLIONS of DOLLARS!
By taxing companies profiting from the Marcellus Shale gas boom,
And by not building the three planned new prisons that will cost $685 million
Step #2: City Council will approve funding bills at their session on Thursday, June 23rd, and find additional funding by taxing untaxed sources of income in the city.
Step #3: Future decisions by the School District will incorporate genuine student, teacher and community input.
Tell Dr. Ackerman and the SRC:
Make Students, Teachers and Communities the Priority.
We Demand Fully Funded Schools.
In this moment of Budget Cuts and Massive Teacher and Staff Lay-offs, the School District continues to make decisions to dismantle our public schools.
Teacher Action Group, along with the Endorsement of the PFT, is calling for The People’s SRC Meeting.
This Tuesday, June 21st, join hundreds of teachers, students, parents and community members in taking back local control of OUR District.
Give and hear Public Testimony on the human impact of the SRC’s budget and priorities.
Vote on real Resolutions for School Reform.
Show what True Leadership looks like.
What: The People’s SRC Meeting
When: Tuesday, June 21st @ 5pm
Where: School District Building. 440 North Broad St.
Some background: The School Reform Commission (SRC), imposed upon the Philadelphia School District in 2001, is an undemocratic body. They are not elected and have no way of being held accountable. Especially given what happened at the June 13th SRC meeting, as the SRC and District forcibly restricted teachers and citizens from participating, it is time to show this District what democracy looks like.
Come out Tuesday June 21st to the school district building for a rally and The People’s SRC Meeting at 5:00 to demand the District prioritize fully and equitably funded schools.
Fully and Equitably Funded Schools mean:
Small Class Sizes – NO Teacher Lay-offs
Keep Schools PUBLIC – Stop privatizing our schools
Art and Music Opportunities
Science and Social Studies – Not just Test Prep
Counselors and Social Workers
English Language Learning support
Libraries and Certified Librarians
We refuse to let the District, city and state sell-out our students, teachers and communities to the highest bidder in order to ‘balance their budget.’
The TIME IS NOW to continue our pressure and move our collective energy toward winning systemic change in this District.
Curriculum Exhibits – Workshops – Community Resources
9:30am – 2pm
The morning Curriculum Fair featured unitand lesson plans, projects, resources, and best practices for social justice education. This was a space for educators to connect and exchange, learn from each other, and take new ideas back to their own classrooms.
2pm – 5pm
The afternoon Summit was be a space for building stronger community alliances for education justice, as parents, students, community members, and educators.
Co-Sponsored by Philadelphia Student Union and ACTION United