This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Philadelphia’s Teacher Action Group will hold its 10th annual conference on Saturday, where educator-activists from around the city will come together to learn from the past year and plan for the next one.
The local group is part of the national Teacher Activist Group, a network of similar organizations in other major cities. Philadelphia’s Teacher Action Group (TAG) formed in 2009 and has confronted issues over the years such as state budget cuts, the lack of a teachers’ contract and dangerous conditions in school buildings. Members have spoken against standardized testing and in favor of a curriculum that emphasizes racial and economic justice.
Anissa Weinraub, head of Academy at Palumbo’s theater department, was part of the group of teachers who co-founded TAG.
“For the past 10 years, we have convened our community to build a strong network of leaders grounded in critical analysis of the social, political and economic conditions we’re facing in public education,” Weinraub told Bonfire Media in a video honoring the anniversary. “Over the next 10 years, we commit to working collectively for racial and economic justice so our students have the schools they deserve.”
Most of the members of TAG are teachers, with some counselors and nurses, as well. TAG organizes Inquiry to Action Groups, where these educators meet to research an issue facing their schools, then organize around that issue. Current inquiry groups include Building Consent Culture in Philly Schools, Teaching for Black Lives, and Critical Financial Literacy.
Many members of TAG went on to form the Working Educators (WE) Caucus within the teachers’ union. The caucus unsuccessfully ran a slate of candidates against the current leadership of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers as part of a national movement to democratize unions. This effort has seen victories in Chicago, St. Paul, Seattle, and Portland. The caucus is independent of TAG, but is committed to the same values.
“TAG was one of the teacher networks which facilitated the conceiving and execution of the caucus,” said Larissa Pahomov, a member of both TAG and the caucus. “There were also folks that came from other grassroots networks, like Teachers Lead Philly, and activated PFT members who had met each other as Building Representatives at regional meetings — but TAG provided the space and opportunity to map out what a caucus would look like.”
Here is TAG’s 10th anniversary video, produced by Bonfire Media: