The survey began with some basic demographic information (age, racial group, number of years worked in the School District of Philadelphia, etc). This was unsurprising and I'm glad their data might be able to correlate for other things in the future.
The first few questions focused on various job conditions of teachers with two responses only: "as good as can be expected" or "falling short." The focal points were class size, salary, job security, and discipline. I tried to ask for clarification on what "as good as can be expected" meant but obviously the survey was not designed to explore that nuance.
The next set of questions was asking my opinion on a few major figures in the current education debate. The spectrum ranged from "very positive" to "very negative" in terms of my reaction to them. The figures included: Tom Corbett, Superintendent Hite, The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, Charter schools, the School Reform Commission, Mayor Nutter, the Principal of my school, and Jerry Jordan. What I didn't totally understand here was how specific and how vague they were. Beginning with a name and then transitioning to an organization, and then a type of school? It was difficult to answer that question because I don't dislike all charter schools. But this false dichotomy arose again in these questions.
There were a few strange questions in the middle about how has control over the city schools - should it be the SRC appointed more by the Governor or should it be a local school board. These questions, I think, were more straight forward.
Then they asked about the potential things that could be done to reduce the budget gap. The pieces here were increased state funding, requiring tax-exempt institutions to pay property taxes, reducing salaries/benefits of school employees, spending $100s of millions on schools instead of prisons, closing down 24 schools, devoting more of the city budget to schools, closing down poorly performing charter schools, or layoffs. They did not ask me for what I thought we should do, which was probably a good idea. I would have given them a lecture as an answer.
The next type of question was strange for me: they asked which 2 items would concern me the most from the following list: cutting summer school programs, increasing class sizes, no art/music programs, no counselors/psychologists, no extra curricular activities, or no school nurses. I find it hard to choose in these situations because I think they are all critical to the proper running of a school.
The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers was focused on for a little bit at this point, with me rating their performance from excellent to poor on the following: teacher conditions in the classrooms, approach to the negotiations, supporting elected officials, keeping members informed, being democratic in giving members a say in how Union is run, and dealing with individual problems of members (like grievances). This was a tough set of questions to answer because - while I support the Union - I do think it could use some work in its democratic processes within membership.
There were some questions here about my agreement on whether the PFT should be "buddy buddy" with management or be adversarial. There were also a few questions on my confidence in the PFT leadership. It seemed like they were looking for ammo on how to known teacher's confidence in the Union.
After, there were a series of options of things that could be implemented from the District's original contract proposal. They asked what would I do for the following (vote against or for): principals hiring staff, eliminating the Health and Welfare fund, increasing word day by 1 hour, no raises until 2017, filling by site selection only, eliminating class size limits, changing medical contribution rules, offering raises based on performance rather than seniority, getting rid of pay raises for educational attainments, or a pay cut in general. Since I felt this original proposal was bonkers, you can guess how I responded.
They got more specific on these goals and asked what I think the PFT should focus on and then what I focused on myself. Finally, they asked what should be done if the SRC and the Union do not reach a deal. Should the Union a) accept new conditions without a fight, or b) take every legal action. Honestly, the only thing I could say was "the PFT should strike."
The survey was long and hard to answer (probably because the options were not the best) but a fascinating exercise in quick typing and dealing with someone who has no idea what they are talking about because they are paid not to.