Could Jim Kenney get the PFT’s endorsement this week?
The political stars may be aligning for mayoral candidate Jim Kenney this week.
The Caucus of Working Educators (WE), a rank-and-file subgroup of Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT), threw their support behind Kenney’s campaign this weekend.
Two weeks ago, the six Democratic candidates delivered their best pitches to a group of 300 PFT members in hopes of winning the union’s powerful vote. At the time, PFT said that it wouldn’t announce its endorsement until mid-March after an internal vote is conducted within the roughly 12,000-member body, though the Inquirer originally reported that union members were already leaning towards Kenney after the meeting.
While the Caucus only represents a fraction of that, its constituents are by necessity PFT or retired PFT union members. Larissa Pahomov described the organization as “small but active rank and file caucus within the PFT,” representing 125 active as well as 75 retired PFT members. Both groups were polled separately, Pahomov said, and the total vote “came out overwhelmingly in support of Kenney.”
City Paper’s Daniel Denvir described the WE caucus as a group of “militant members shaking up the PFT.” While its goals are to increase engagement among an unenthusiastic union body — down from over 16,000 members in 2010 — some have accused the caucus of disloyalty. However, PFT President Jerry Jordan reportedly does not oppose the presence of a second caucus within the union, and WE members said that it’s not on its agenda to challenge Jordan’s union leadership in future elections.
If the PFT doesn’t back Kenney now, it would be fair to assume there is a wider political faction than thought within the organization.
Caucus members pointed to Kenney’s range of accomplishments on issues that matter to them as educators, from his support of gay marriage to his stance on the school-to-prison pipeline.
"As far as I'm concerned, there is no other option,” said caucus member Kelley Collings of Feltonville School of Arts and Sciences. “Kenney is THE candidate who prioritizes public education and values the voices of all stakeholders in crafting solutions to the chronic problems of funding and governance that plague Philly public schools."
But still, the Caucus’ endorsement hadn’t even reached the ears of Kenney’s campaign team as of Monday morning. They can’t (or won’t) say it’s indicative of PFT’s nod to Kenney.
“Obviously we’re very hopeful to receive the endorsement,” Lauren Hitt, communications director for the Kenney campaign, told AL DÍA. “But we can’t say we’re certain it will happen.”
Hitt noted that Kenney visited two traditional public schools last week to receive input from teachers about education reform, and that Kenney’s extensive track record working with these communities.
Kenney’s education platform can be read here.