Bring Malala’s Story into your Classroom

Malala Yousafzai
Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai is an inspiration to students and teachers around the world.  As a fierce advocate of education for girls, she has reminded us that we can never take schooling for granted, and that this is a right worth fighting for.  Teacher Action Group encourages teachers to use the occasion of the award of the 2014 Liberty Medal to Malala as an opportunity to encourage students to be advocates for their own education.

“It is we who make history.  It is we who become history.”
—Malala Yousafzai, Liberty Medal acceptance speech, October 21, 2014

For ideas about teaching Malala’s story:


Student urges us all to pressure Gov. Corbett on the budget

TAG is  pleased to share the work of Miae Iwasaki, a middle school student in the School District of Philadelphia:   

As students in the School District of Philadelphia are learning, did it ever occur to you that they are being stripped of their decent education due to budget cuts? Governor Corbett is putting tax payers’ money toward other causes. As a result, school districts have not been, and still are not, receiving enough money to be effective. Students require good education for their future careers. Yet, Governor Corbett is making the budget cuts worse.

These budget cuts are even more unacceptable because Governor Corbett distributed them unevenly. The poorer school districts lost more money than the middle class or wealthy districts. The space separating the rich and poor expanded. In the article “Cuts That Don’t Heal,” even the advocates agree stating, “The budget is expected to scratch the wealthiest communities, cut those in the middle, and lacerate the poorest.” Learning will be harder for students in poorer districts.

What about those learning the English language, those with disabilities, and those who live in poverty? In the article “Parents, students filed 260 complaints this week with state regarding district schools,” a girl name Ming Nguyen immigrated from Vietnam to Philadelphia, assuming she would get good education and learn the English language. She did not get the help needed though, and it made her feel uneasy about her career. She had only one counselor who was a bilingual, and was between four other schools. There are about 78% of the students in the School District of Philadelphia that are learning English, have a disability, or live in poverty. Funding is important to them.

Due to budget cuts, we are not meeting expectations of a good education. Also in the article, “Parents, students filed 260 complaints this week with state regarding district schools,” a boy named Coffer said “Our classrooms are no longer centers of learning, they are just classrooms with too many distractions.” A third grade student became homeless, but the school did not have a full time guidance counselor to support him. If there was enough funding then schools would have been better. Instead, the school district of Philadelphia has lost an amount more $75,000 per class since 2010-2011. From this, it is clear that students are not doing well with school.

Therefore, Governor Corbett must stop the budget cuts. He is distributing them unevenly. Some schools cannot afford to lose anymore funding for those in need of it. Many students do not receive the education they need. For these reasons, us students and parents should fight for a better education. We should pressure Governor Corbett by sending letters to: Room 225, Main Capitol Building Harrisburg, PA 17120.


1. “Cuts That Don’t Heal” by Shayla Johnson from The Union Rep Newsletter.
2. “Where Has Our School Funding Gone?” by Briana Bailey from The Union Rep Newsletter.
3.  “Parents, students filed 260 complaints this week with state regarding district schools” by Regina Medina from Daily News.

“These budget cuts are ruining many students’ high school experiences.”

TAG is pleased to continue sharing student perspectives on budget cuts.  The latest letter is by Soundouss Telhaoui, a middle school student in the School District of Philadelphia:

Dear Readers,

Have you ever thought about where your education is leading or has led you? Education is what replaced your empty mind with an open one. It helped you distinguish between wrong and right. Now, students in the state of Pennsylvania are no longer getting the right education that they once received. Governor Tom Corbett made budget cuts towards the Pennsylvania school districts, which caused many educational losses for the students. These students do not deserve this grueling way of education.

One reason you should be against these budget cuts is because many students in public schools are losing proper education. For instance, many Philadelphia schools no longer have libraries or librarians. Without a library, students who are engaged in their learning have no quiet place to study and are unable to retrieve necessary books. Also, students who need computers are in a difficult situation as a result of the closure of the libraries. These changes have affected our education terribly and are continuing throughout the state.

In addition, schools have been shutting down. Therefore, students are being merged into other Pennsylvania schools. Many high school students who were merged have gone through many problems, such as not getting used to their surroundings and having different schedules. The difficulty with having a different schedule is that many high school students will have no possibility of graduating. This happened in Chester High School in Chester, Pennsylvania. There were complaints from the students that they were not getting the credits they needed to graduate at their new school. These budget cuts are ruining many students’ high school experiences.

Just as how losing proper education is affecting lives, students who need extra help are getting limited access to nurses and counselors. 78% of students in the School District of Philadelphia have a disability, are learning English, or live in poverty. These students are receiving less help from teachers and support staff. Without the help from adults in school, they will have a harder time in the future. A Vietnamese girl, in 12th grade, has been through this same situation. She cannot speak English; therefore, she needs a bilingual counselor. However, the counselor is not always available because he visits four schools per week. This can affect her education and her future.

These situations that were just stated are what the students do not deserve. Ever since the budget cuts have been placed, students are having more trouble with learning and with their environmental surroundings. These students of the state of Pennsylvania are in need of help and are trying to inform people about their horrible change in education by having walkouts. Stand next to these students in their fight for their education and influence others to stand up for what is right. Spread this word to other people, so they can help us, and hopefully, our word will change Governor Corbett’s choice of placing more budget cuts. Help out these students in need and help take our education to a better level.


  1. “Cuts Don’t Heal” by Shayla Johnson, in the Union Rep Newsletter.
  2. “Where Has Our School Funding Gone?” by Briana Bailey, in the Union Rep Newsletter.
  3. “Parents, students filed 260 complaints this week with state regarding district schools” by Regina Medina, in The Philadelphia Daily News.


How Budget Cuts Affect Students

TAG is pleased to present the work of Nasir Permenter, a 7th grade student in the School District of Philadelphia:

Ever wonder why people hate Governor Tom Corbett? Well, here’s why! Governor Tom Corbett cut school funding by millions of dollars. These cuts affect children in Philadelphia’s schools in many ways. Governor Tom Corbett should fund our school district.

As part of the budget cuts, schools are losing experienced teachers. They are being replaced with inexperienced teachers, who do not teach children properly. Experienced teachers can explain lessons better and clarify a lesson to a student who may be having a difficult time understanding life. Schools are also losing secretaries. Secretaries are being laid off because there is not enough money to pay them. Secretaries have an important job in helping the principal, teachers and parents, which means their jobs are very important. Secretaries make appointments and cancel appointments. They handle phone calls, take care of important paperwork, and if they fire all the secretaries, it will leave all these responsibilities on the principals and teachers. Students deserve experienced teachers and secretaries, because it allows them to get a better education and be successful in life.

Tom Corbett’s budget cuts have eliminated counselors’ jobs as well, which will ultimately affect multicultural students and their education. This will especially affect immigrants who do not speak English because they will not get the support they need from bilingual counselors. For example, in one article, “ Parents, Students filled 260 complaints this week with state regarding districts schools,” by Regina Medina in the Daily News Staff, a 16 year old Vietnamese girl came to Philadelphia in search of a good education. However she is not receiving a good education because she is not getting the support she needs. There was one bilingual counselor, but because of the budget cuts, the counselor is split between four different schools. She is also experiencing overcrowded classrooms, closed libraries, and a lack of nurses and counselors.

Lastly, the budget cuts affect the amount of resources schools receive. Schools can no longer afford school supplies because of the budget cuts. With less supplies students will experience a lack of textbooks, papers, library books, computers and much more. School librarians and libraries are being cut, which limits some kids’ resources even more. Libraries are essential to learning because they provide a place for students to study, read books, use computers, do research and complete projects.

Once again, Governor Tom Corbett should fund our school districts. His lack of funding our school district proves that he does not care about our education or our future. He should realize how detrimental his budget cuts are to our schools. With your help, Tom Corbett will be voted out of office in the 2014 election and our next Governor will care more about our education than he did.

“ Parents, Students filled 260 complaints this week with state regarding districts schools.” By: Regina Medina, Daily News Staff Writer
“Where has our school funding gone? The inequalities of spending” From: The union rep newsletter fall, winter 2012 By: Briana Bailey
“ Cuts that don’t heal. Pennsylvania students fight back against budget cuts.” From: The union rep newsletter By: Shayla Johnson
“” “http://www”
“http://www­essays­2/education­budget­cuts­significance­issue­im portant­ut­29694”

Student Message to Gov. Corbett: Stop procrastinating, start providing more money

TAG is pleased to present the following piece by Reshma Davis, a 7th grade student in the School District of Philadelphia.

Do you think your children are getting a good education? Does Governor Tom Corbett disadvantage them due to the budget cuts? The Governor is decreasing the amount of money school districts in Pennsylvania receive. Teachers and parents are worried that students are not getting the education they deserve. Governor Corbett should stop procrastinating, and start providing more money for schools.

The governor has not only underfunded wealthy school districts, but poor school districts too. For example, the budget cuts expanded the difference between the opulent and the pauper Pennsylvanian communities. In the article “Cuts That Don’t Heal” education advocates say, “The budget is expected to scratch the wealthiest communities, cut those in the middle, and lacerate the poorest.” This means that the impoverished school districts will be affected more than the prosperous school districts. These school districts already did not have sufficient money to begin with. Now there is not enough money to buy educational resources for some schools such as textbooks. Schools are defunded to such an extreme that the minimum learning materials cannot be made available, especially to the poorer school districts. In short, all the public schools in Pennsylvania are deprived of the basic supplies to learn.

In addition, the school districts have problems with the classrooms and spending. Most schools do not have enough money to spend on school libraries. There is also not enough money to employ qualified librarians. Worst of all, there are not enough qualified teachers. It is clear that without qualified teachers, the students’ behavior and education will go downhill. Everyone has to remind themselves that qualified teachers are the backbone of a superb education system.

As a result of the budget cuts, a challenging situation has risen in public schools. For instance, overcrowded schools have lead to a crisis. More students mean more distractions to students. Teachers are not able to individually assist students who need help or are educationally disadvantaged. This results in poor performance of students in standardized tests. The budget cuts have led to students not getting enough teacher attention, which leads to a decrease in learning.

It seems like Governor Corbett’s intention is to ruin public education by withholding the basic funds for public schools. We, as students, have to do something to change the ways of Governor Corbett. He has caused more budget cuts in poor areas than the wealthy school districts. Due to his budget cuts, schools have problems with classrooms and other school activities. We should all protest against this unfair treatment and get Governor Corbett to give school districts enough money to buy resources to provide a good education. Education is everyone’s right!


  • “Where has our school funding gone?” in The Union Rep Newsletter
  • “Parents, students filed 260 complaints this week with state regarding district schools.” By Regina Medina
  • “Cuts that don’t heal” by Shayla Johnson

Budget Cuts: Let the Truth Be Heard

TAG is pleased to present the following piece by Tiesianna Matthews, a 7th grade student in the School District of Philadelphia.

           How are you feeling today? I am asking you because I am mad. Actually, I am furious! Governor Corbett has cut school funds and it is not okay. Gov. Corbett is taking advantage of our youth by taking away the money we deserve. As fellow students, we need to unite and stop these crazy budget cuts. It is not fair how we students are downgraded because of our age. We need to put a stop to this. If we do not, we will always be known as, “Just those kids,” meaning that young people do not have a say in what is affecting our lives. Together, we can fight this, and take a stand for what we believe in. I am tired of being locked away with tape over my mouth. We need to let the truth be heard.

Imagine this, you walk to school one day. You stop by the cafeteria to get a creamy cup of hot chocolate. After that, you head off to go to basketball practice or perhaps art class. Wouldn’t that be fun? I mean if I were you, I would want to be rewarded for all my hard work. Well, too bad. Public schools do not have the clubs or extra curricular programs as before. The clubs are being cut and this is affecting students. One reason why students work hard and try to achieve good grades is so they can go to their clubs to get a break while feeling both special and unique. Budget cuts make all the hard working students feel like they do not have a reason to go above and beyond their classwork. This budget cut is unfair. Let the truth be heard.

Whether you love them or hate them, books are an important part in our education. If you are in middle school or higher, teachers give you work that is anything but basic. Many projects require research in books. With the budget cuts, libraries are no longer in schools. Students may need a book that’s not their neighborhood library. What do you do then? Whether governor Corbett knows or not, we are all losing our proper education. I am not going to jump to conclusions, though. Let us just say that your school does have a library. There is no guarantee that the librarian is trained or qualified. The budget cuts are preventing schools from having a librarian that actually knows what he/she is doing. I want a library in my school with a great librarian. Let the truth be heard.

Fellow achievers, when you go to school, do you expect at least the basic tools of learning? It is good my school has the basic essentials I need for school, for now. Other schools, though, are not so lucky. In places such as Reading, the students were used to underfunding and not having enough resources. With the cut, Reading schools lost even more funds. Students gave familiar complaints about this issue, “Overcrowded classrooms, lack of books, no access to technology, no support from counselors and inexperienced teachers that do not engage with students.” These budget cuts are affecting your education. Let the truth be heard.

Over crowded classrooms, cut programs and unqualified librarians, is this the future you want? Stand out from the crowd and show how you feel. Just like other people, you also have a voice. How are you feeling after reading this? If you truly care, take a stand and protest against school budget cuts. Speak loud and let your voice be heard.


1.” Cuts that don’t heal” by Shayla Johnson

2″Daily News” by Regina Medina

3.”Where has our school funding gone?” by Briana Bailey

Inspiration and Connection at TAG’s Education for Liberation Conference


Over one hundred students, educators, and allies of public education came out on Saturday, May 3, to connect with peers in thirteen thought-provoking workshops, and hear words of inspiration from activist Dr. Lois Weiner.  In her keynote address, Dr. Weiner spoke of the need to call a spade a spade and stop negotiating with people who want to destroy us.  She also cautioned anyone against recalling a golden age of education, since segregation accompanied the privileges of many.  And she urged us to treasure and protect our African American teachers, who can be more vulnerable than others during school turn-arounds.  Finally, she stressed that what’s right isn’t necessarily popular.

Announcing the 2014 Education for Liberation Conference!

We’re proud to announce

TAG’s 5th Annual Education for Liberation Conference! 

Featuring Keynote Speaker Lois Weiner
Saturday May 3rd, 2014
9:30AM – 3:30PM
Folk Arts and Cultural Treasures School
1023 Callowhill Street, Philadelphia, PA 19123
Register Today!
/ Volunteers, Tablers, Workshop Proposals: Click here!

This year’s conference will build the power and impact of on-the-ground educators across Philadelphia by creating space for you to learn, connect with each other and develop the skills necessary to transform education in our city, both within classrooms and beyond those walls.

Registration (9:30-10:00)

Keynote Address (10:00-10:45)

Social Justice in Classrooms and Schools: Why We Must Transform Teachers’ Unions

Lois Weiner, author of The Future of Our Schools, is a life-long teacher union activist and educator and has been an officer of three union locals. She is internationally known for her work on urban teacher education and is a powerful voice for the possibility of teacher unions to transform public education landscapes.

Tables with curriculum resources (10:45-11:15): These will also be available throughout the day.

Morning Workshops (11:15-12:45):

  • Black Music As Rebellion
  • Removing the Blindfold from the Elephant in the Box under the Rug:  Valuing Multicultural Identities in Schools
  • Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship
  • Telling Untold Stories in the Fight for Public Education
  • Freak Ladies Fight Back: How art can help us liberate our souls and liberate our peoples
  • Youth Art & Self-empowerment Project

Lunch Time Meet-Ups (1:00-1:30):

  • Social Studies
  • ELL & Bilingual
  • Charter Accountability/Organizing
  • WE Caucus
  • TAG Future Leaders

Afternoon Workshops (1:45-3:15):

  • VISUAL THINKING:  think + draw + learn
  • History Making Productions: Learning Through Media
  • The Power of Student Voice
  • Teacher Facilitated Professional Inquiry Groups
  • Listen Up!: Youth-Produced Media in the Classroom
  • School Discipline 101: Know Your Rights!
  • Caucus 101:  What is the Caucus of Working Educators?

See you there!


Education Follow-Up: Allyson Schwartz

We are pleased to present PA gubernatorial candidate Allyson Schwartz’s responses to our follow-up questionnaire. She is the first current candidate to respond to the second phase of our Candidate Report Card Campaign. We will post additional responses as we receive them.

1. Philadelphia schools are struggling to make up for a $304 million dollar budget gap this year, and the prognosis for next year does not look good (The Notebook). What do you think the best solution(s) are for the School District of Philadelphia’s financial problems?

The financial crisis in the School District of Philadelphia has been driven largely by two factors:  (1) the extreme budget cuts imposed on the district by Governor Corbett, and (2) the rapid growth of charter schools, which has drained vital resources.

As the former Democratic Chair of the Pennsylvania Senate Education Committee, I fought for fair funding for our public schools. As governor, I will restore the almost $1 billion that Corbett cut from school subsidies by the end of my first term in office. I was the first Democratic candidate for governor to call for a 5 percent tax on Marcellus Shale gas production, and I will use the profits from this tax to recommit Pennsylvania to public education.

I will establish a data-driven funding formula that provides fair, adequate and sustained funding for every school district. My formula will take into account a district’s economic and demographic profile, including variances in income and learning capabilities (including students with special needs), and the local community’s ability to raise local funds. My funding formula will consider the particular needs of Philadelphia schools.

In addition, I will improve charter school transparency and accountability to guarantee that public dollars are used wisely, to prevent fraud, and to guard against unacceptable conflicts of interest. This includes ending state funding for cyber-charter schools in Pennsylvania.

2. You identified yourself as “strongly in favor” of replacing the School Reform Commission with a locally elected school board. If elected Governor, what concrete steps would you take to making this belief a reality?

As a state Senator in 1998, I voted against the state takeover of Philadelphia schools that led to the School Reform Commission. I later fought in the Senate to establish an independent oversight panel to monitor the Commission’s actions.

Because the School Reform Commission was created by an act of the Legislature and Governor, it will take legislative action to abolish the School Reform Commission. Working with legislative leaders and local stakeholders, I will make it a top priority of my administration to repeal Act 46 and return the School District of Philadelphia to local control.

I will listen to all Philadelphia stakeholders in determining whether it is best to establish a locally-elected school board or have an appointed board as prior to the state takeover in 2001.

3.  Groups like the Commonwealth Foundation are seeking to undo union rights in Pennsylvania, specifically by taking away their ability to collect dues directly from member paychecks. If elected, how would you respond to this kind of legislation? What concrete steps would you take to protect unions in Pennsylvania?

Paycheck withholding of union dues is a matter determined in collective bargaining, as it ought to be. I will protect this right.

I am strongly committed to protecting the right of our workers to form a union and collectively bargain without pressure or interference from their employer. That is why I co-sponsored the Employee Free Choice Act in Congress. I have repeatedly opposed efforts by congressional Republicans to undermine the National Labor Relations Board and opposed instituting mandatory waiting periods before an election to form a union.

I have stood up to defend the right to collectively bargain to secure fair wages, to ensure equal pay for equal work, and to extend job protections. Working families need a governor who has a long, documented history of standing up for them – and working with them – to tackle the biggest challenges facing our communities, state, and nation.

I strongly agree with TAG’s stated position that, “Unions should be a place where teachers have a voice in creating and protecting an educational system that is set up in the best interests of students, families, and teachers.”

As long as I am the Governor of Pennsylvania, the Commonwealth will never become a “right to work” state.

4. The new state-wide system for teacher evaluation (PVAAS) bases at least 30% of a teacher’s total rating on standardized test scores (Research for ActionPost-Gazette). What effect do you think this new system will have on teaching and learning in public schools?

Pennsylvania teachers are relentlessly focused on improving student performance and we must ensure they have the tools they need to succeed.

We cannot judge performance on standardized tests alone, which encourages schools to teach to the test and narrow the curriculum.  We must ensure that performance review systems are implemented fairly and successfully, including multiple measures to track valid and reliable data, with a clear ability to provide meaningful feedback to teachers, school leaders, and students and parents.

As governor, I will partner with the Commonwealth’s teachers and educational stakeholders to ensure that tests are implemented fairly, that schools have the resources they need to succeed, and that all Pennsylvania’s students receive a high quality education, not simply take test after test.

We must focus on improving achievement, and a cornerstone of being able to do so successfully is to ensure districts have the resources, support, and flexibility they need to meet their students’ particular needs.

Children do not remember the test, they remember the teacher. We will fail our children if we lose focus of how vital a well-rounded education is to children’s academic and personal success.

5. This new evaluation system does not apply to teachers in charter or independent schools. Do you support this exemption? If not, what would you do to change it?

Charter schools should be held to standards identical to traditional schools, and as Governor I would ensure that our state wide evaluation methods hold charter school teachers accountable to the same metrics as traditional public school teachers.

6. Pennsylvania currently allows a “religious exemption” for state standardized testing, which many families use as a back door to opting out (Newsworks). Do you support the rights of all families to opt their children out of state standardized exams?

Granting a religious exemption may be appropriate in some cases, but we must ensure that it is not over-used.

7. Is there anything else you would like to tell the public about your views on education?

Nothing that state government does is more important than providing quality public education. As the mother of two Philadelphia public school graduates, I know how important public education is to our families. I’m the only candidate with a proven record of accomplishment in standing up to the old boys club in Harrisburg to make a difference in the lives of Pennsylvania families, and as Governor, I will bring that same sense of mission and determination to ensure that we recommit Pennsylvania to public education

During my service in the Pennsylvania Senate, I served for a decade as the Democratic Chair of the Education Committee. I pushed for greater investment in education, including fair funding for public schools, helped lead fights against school vouchers, and voted against the state take-over of Philadelphia schools, which led to the creation of the SRC.  As a longtime champion of early education, I also introduced State Senate legislation to provide state reimbursement for full-day kindergarten. In Congress, I am working closely with Senator Bob Casey, on the Prepare All Kids Act which creates a Prekindergarten Incentive Fund to award grants to states to establish, expand, or enhance voluntary high-quality pre-K programs.

You can read my complete comprehensive education plan on my website,, but I wanted to highlight the foundation points of the plan.

A Strong Start

Keystone Kids. Success in school begins with early education and that it is one the best opportunities for a return on public investment. Decades of research proves that quality preschool narrows the achievement gap, increases high school graduation rates, decreases the need for special education, helps prepare children to succeed in today’s competitive economy, and reduces health care and social welfare costs over time. One study found that every dollar invested in early education generates a $7 to $8 return on investment. As Governor, I will launch Keystone Kids – a landmark initiative to make access to pre-­‐kindergarten universal for all four year olds within a decade.

Full-­Day Kindergarten. In the State Senate, I successfully fought to expand access to full-­‐day kindergarten. As Governor, I will make full-­‐day kindergarten accessible to every child in Pennsylvania and ensure that school districts have the support that they need to achieve this goal.

Reducing Class Sizes. As a State Senator, I championed efforts to reduce class size in the early grades. Because of Corbett’s draconian budget cuts, many of our schools have been forced to increase class sizes across the board, hurting student achievement. As Governor, I will enable school districts limit class sizes in kindergarten through 3rd grade.

Reversing Tom Corbett’s Education Cuts In My First Term

I have released a plan to enact a moderate, 5-­‐percent severance tax on natural gas production that will raise billions of dollars to support transformational investments, especially in public education and early education. By growing the economy, re-­‐prioritizing the existing budget and drawing upon new resources from the shale tax, I will reverse Governor Corbett’s extreme cuts of almost $1 billion during my first term.

Fair Support for All of Pennsylvania’s Schools
It is unacceptable that investment to our schools is determined by political calculations in Harrisburg and not by school and student need. Current funding is not adequate, predictable, or fair, and we see the devastating consequences here in Philadelphia.

The quality of a student’s education should not depend on where they live in our state. As Governor, I will partner with all stakeholders to determine the necessary level of state support to ensure that all students receive a quality education. I will establish a transparent funding formula that recognizes student and school district characteristics, considers local effort and provides sustained, adequate and fair funding to every school in the Commonwealth.