Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Philadephia Federation of Teachers: Coalition building meeting

Here’s some impressions from the PFT meeting this afternoon (May 2, 2012). I take notes at meetings the way I take notes for poems… random disassociated impressions intended for stimulating even more disjunctive associations at some later date—not for putting together a coherent representation of whatever might have inspired them. Be forewarned.
It was a good meeting. Any time Helen Gym stands up to speak her mind, it’s gonna be a good meeting. She was awesome yesterday at the hearing before the school board. She’s done her homework, put the Knudson proposal to the test and finds it an empty shell.
Only one of several impressive voices.

Simplified synthesis from multiple sources: Managers/Administrators mediate between money and people who do the work: teachers, principles, all those who make education happen. When managers hold the power, Money always wins, money determines, money makes the rules, sets the agenda, ceases to be a means to serve education, but comes to define what education is, and is for… namely… in the end, it all comes down to one thing: to make more money.

That’s what Knudson’s privatization, farming out to corporations… comes down to. Teachers have little say in how educational programs are designed. This has to change. Return education to the educators and communities. There are many problems that have to be addressed in securing financial support. Blue Cross, University of Pennsylvania… pay NO property taxes. The whole tax structure in the city needs to change… but First Order of Business must be to STOP the Knudson plan. There is no room for negotiation or modification—it MUST be stopped. General agreement on this, and first deadline is May 31—vote will be June 1. So we are under severe time pressure.
How is this to be done?
Build Show Sustain

Build coalition. Movement building. Organize to achieve goals… committees, divide tasks
Show: Education! Parents and teachers need to learn what we are facing, get out information. The public needs to learn the facts. Teach-ins. Press conferences. Target questions to expose weakness and distortions in the Knudson plan. Go public big time!
Sustain: This is about creating a vision for the future, long term goals and planning. People wanted (& there was STRONG support) DIRECT ACTION, Occupy Philly has a role to play here fer sure. We can be a valuable member of this coalition effort—if we keep in mind that there are many teachers, present and retired, community organizers—some awesome people (remember, they defeated the Edison plan ten years ago!), and we need to take our commitment to horizontal democracy seriously and not think we always have to be the ones leading the march. (Thank you Caroline for bringing this up at a May Day planning meeting—about how Occupy shoved ahead of people who should have had more say in the feeding ban hearing, alienating people we should have on our side). But there’s a load of ways Occupy Philly can be good partners here.
Some targets are more immediately vulnerable—or likely to respond. Every City Council person—who know that when the schools to be close are named (they have refused to do this so far), parents and community people will be pounding on their door.
Every school, a man named Ralph pointed out, is a little economic engine in its neighborhood. Any closing has an immediate and powerful effect in the local community. Council peeps should be called and meetings set up starting ASAP. And the Mayor… because of how he’s backed this—is vulnerable to its potential success or failure. Unions need to be mobilized. Important coming dates: May 15, Corbett will be in Philly at Chamber of Commerce meeting!
May 31, SRC vote.
A side note. Someone stood up at a recent meeting at the AME Bethel church—“We need to Occupy 440!” he or she said… and everyone stood up and applauded. Think about this… when we’re asked about what difference Occupy has made. This is the kind of difference you can’t see or measure. It was just the word “Occupy”… that’s not coming from any working group, or General Assembly—or participants of Occupy this or that… it’s a word that has grown powerful, charged with of yet to be defined actions and implications—how loaded and powerful it has become… that’s the power of a Movement, not any one institution or Cause or lobbying group has that kind of power… to spring up in new forms, spontaneously, spreading where no one would have expected it.
A new world is possible!


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