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“Working Educators” Caucus to Challenge Jerry Jordan for Control of the Philadelphia Teachers’ Union


Designated the second annual “WE Convention” a unified, aggressive and vocal group of about 150 members of an arm of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers announced its platform and challenge to serving president Jerry Jordan, who reportedly has held this position with no opposition for many years.

9 members make up the full slate of the Caucus of Working Educators, and an enthusiastic group of teachers of all ages, some wearing red T shirts with their “WE” logo proudly displayed, responded loudly to leadership as they outlined plans to force a largely silent union to recognize them.

Claiming 5 years of prior organizing, this defined group was formally founded in March of 2014 and announced this past September its intent with a slate under Amy Roat for president and 8 others to fill executive board positions.  Their platform theme is to build a teacher’s union driven by transparency, democracy, autonomy and accountability for the approximately 11,000 members who will be asked to participate in a mail in vote, presumably between December 2015 and April 2016.

Their 5 point platform focuses on a strong contract, ending what they see as loopholes and illegal practices by gathering parent support, better visibility and communication, promoting equitable funding, as well as focusing on the “whole child” and raising professional standards.

Clearly organized and dedicated, the Working Educators platform is based on an extensive listening campaign and information garnered from labor organizers and teachers unions in other cities.

This effort only ads intensity to one of the longest running management and fiscal problems facing the City of Philadelphia and that is how to both restructure and properly fund the city’s long failing school system. 

During the primary phase of the mayoral election the school related challenges saw one candidate funded by supporters of charter schools lose ground quickly, as the teacher’s union surprisingly joined hands with the building trade unions and supported Jim Kenney, a candidate also funded by an outside money super pac. 

The School Reform Commission, with its just revised board and  challenges of its own, has been in a virtual dogfight with the teacher’s union over their contract and the whole issue of charter versus public schools.

Add to that challenges in determining how much funding will come from the state and when, and you have a virtual perfect storm.

But the larger story challenging the educational profession does not begin or end with the ongoing Philadelphia crisis, although the example here of years of battling over whose money will pay for what has become a ritual.

On the national level it is reported that 37 cities have filed cases of school system organized cheating and corruption that involves teachers, administrators and principals.  Atlanta sent many to jail in what has so far been the worst example of the profession we long believed was the one that was above reproach.  Philadelphia is one of the 37 and the legal cases are reportedly ongoing. 

We have witnessed the same old players fight this battle for years, the SRC, expensive School Administrators, politicians at the city and state level who forced the hands of board members acting on contributions from contracting agents and sweetheart no bid contracts for suppliers.

The corruption that is in the bones of Philadelphia is no stranger to this whole educational morass and it seems this teacher’s union may have gone the distance to cover up the rampant cheating rather than clean their own house.

The timing may be just right for some fresh faces to challenge the status quo.

Jim Foster, Editor