Press Release

AFT President Applauds Philly Community Leader Helen Gym on White House Award

For Release: 

Monday, March 31, 2014


Kate Childs Graham
202/393-6354; cell 202/615-2424

WASHINGTON— AFT President Randi Weingarten's statement on Helen Gym, founder of Parents United for Public Education, being honored by the White House as a Cesar Chavez Champion of Change.

"Helen Gym is a longtime leader in the Philadelphia community, fighting for public education, immigrant justice and civil rights. Whether as a board member of Asian Americans United or an editor for education-related publications like The Philadelphia Public School Notebook or Rethinking Schools, Helen has used her pen, her voice and her strategic mind to bring real and much-needed solutions to the Philadelphia community.

"This past year, her leadership has been especially vital as the crisis in Philadelphia's public schools has escalated and Gov. Tom Corbett, Superintendent William Hite and the School Reform Commission have eviscerated school budgets, closed dozens of schools, laid off thousands of teachers and school employees, and left Philadelphia's public school students with very few resources. Helen has made sure the voice of parents is heard—rejecting the School Reform Commission's attempts to pit teachers against kids; showing their unwavering support for Philly's children, their public schools and their educators; helping them file complaints about school conditions with the state; and keeping them up-to-date on Twitter and blogs.

"I can't think of a leader more deserving of this honor. Helen understands that no one can reclaim the promise of public education alone. She has led partnerships with teachers, support staff, students, unions and parents to offer a better way—one that's critical for children in Philadelphia. The gratitude of a great many is with Helen as she accepts this award."

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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.