July 12, 2014
Kate Childs Graham
Philly Leaders Address National Teachers' Union Convention
LOS ANGELES—Several Philadelphians spoke today at the American Federation of Teachers' national convention taking place July 11-14 at the Los Angeles Convention Center.
From Philadelphia Student Union leader Hiram Rivera and Helen Gym, co-founder of Parents United for Public Education, to Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan, the city's tenacious public school advocates spoke out about their ongoing fight to fully fund and preserve neighborhood schools.
In her speech Friday, AFT President Randi Weingarten discussed the ongoing challenges in Philadelphia and the community's effort to reclaim the promise of public education for all students. She said, "We've taken the conversations about schools outside the school and into our communities. Because of that, we're in a different place than we were two years ago. In Philadelphia, working with the community to reclaim our public schools, we stopped school closures and kept public schools in public hands."
Today, PFT President Jerry Jordan, who is also an AFT vice president, again addressed the importance of community engagement. He said, "We've had more than our share of struggles in Philadelphia, but our members are more engaged than ever before and our community is more engaged than ever before."
In particular, the PFT and groups like Gym's Parents United for Public Education recently fought to keep Munoz Marin School and Steel Elementary School—slated for charter takeover—public. Gym shared from the convention floor, "Parents and teachers worked together to organize our schools while the other side used fear. ... We didn't just win the vote at Steel and Munoz Marin, we reclaimed a vision for public education with parents and teachers partnering at the forefront."
At the heart of the movement to reclaim Philadelphia schools are its students, PSU leader Rivera shared. He said, "The students of Philadelphia aren't only fighting for their education, they're fighting for their lives. ... As we move into a school year that will be worse than ever, the need for student-teacher solidarity is needed now more than ever."
The 3,500 delegates of the convention unanimously passed a resolution declaring their solidarity with Philadelphia educators and students. It resolved, "The American Federation of Teachers will join in supporting the PFT's work to secure a contract that is good for students and fair for teachers."
Gym will participate in a press conference regarding the importance of due process for educators on Monday, July 14, at 10 a.m. Pacific time (1 p.m. Eastern time). Press may dial in at 855-865-8879.
Follow AFT President Randi Weingarten: http://twitter.com/rweingarten
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The AFT represents 1.6 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.