Press Release

AFT Leaders Mourn Passing of Longtime Colleague and AFT Pennsylvania President Ted Kirsch

For Release:


Oriana Korin
Joe Corrigan
Hillary Linardopoulos
Dan Evans

Montgomery County, PA—American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, AFT Pennsylvania President Arthur Steinberg, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry T. Jordan and Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers President Nina Esposito-Visgitis issued the following statement on the death of Ted Kirsch, who served as AFT Pennsylvania president from 2005 to 2019 and as an AFT vice president since 1990:

Weingarten said:

“Ted Kirsch was a pillar of the AFT. He was as tough as Philadelphia tough gets. He was union strong, while simultaneously being a devoted husband, father and grandfather. Ted loved to bring people together, he loved to ask questions, and he loved to show others the things he loved. Underneath his tough exterior was generosity, humor and curiosity, right until the end. His impact on this union—and on the lives of working people and public schools across Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and the country—will be felt for generations. I have had the honor to know him for decades and am grateful for his advice and his friendship. May we all live with a little bit of Ted Kirsch’s grit, and may his memory forever be a blessing.”

Steinberg said:

“Today, all of us at AFT Pennsylvania mourn the passing of our immediate past president, Ted Kirsch. Ted dedicated his life and career to improving the lives of educators, working people and public school students.

“Ted was a committed educator and labor leader. From building representative at Overbrook High School in the 1960s, to leading the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers from 1990 until 2007 and serving as president of our statewide union from 2005 until 2019, he never missed an opportunity to make a difference for his colleagues. He was a mentor to many who would eventually be part of the next generation of union leadership.

“The strength of our union, from K-12 to higher education, is due in large part to Ted’s tireless work.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Ted’s son Joel and daughter Jodie, his four grandchildren, and his many colleagues and friends today.”

Jordan said:

“Ted's leadership was marked with passion, dedication and a number of significant achievements. His lifelong commitment to the union is commendable, and few will forget the fiery and fierce way he advocated for our members' working conditions, which are our students' learning conditions. So many of our members have memories of a time when a Ted Kirsch speech fired them up, and I hope that the impact he made on so many will serve as comfort for his family during this difficult time.”

Esposito-Visgitis said:

"Mentor. Advocate. Activist. Teacher. Friend. Ted Kirsch embodied our individual and collective potential—as educators and as a union. His lifetime of good works will be long remembered in Pennsylvania." 

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The AFT represents 1.7 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.