Education Firebrand Helen Gym Lands Big Union Endorsement, Donation for Council

She'll launch her campaign next week.


It’s official: The firebrand education activist Helen Gym says she is running for Democratic City Council At-Large in the May 19th primary.

Though she hasn’t made a formal announcement yet, she’s already got one major endorsement under her belt: The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers’ executive board voted Thursday to support her.

“I feel very strongly about coming out as the [first candidate] endorsed by the teachers’ union,” says Gym. “I think their vote represented a broad swath of teachers in the city, and theirs is a voice that needs to be heard and hasn’t been.”

Gym, a co-founder of Parents United for Public Education, is planning to kick off her campaign at an event on Monday.

Gym has never run for citywide office before, but she already has a high profile as a vocal critic of education budget cuts and widespread school closings in Philadelphia.

If elected to Council, Gym says she would work to make sure that “all of the city, especially the poor and working class, have equitable access to city services and are really seeing a city work for them.

“I think that the contrast between the great success for some and the vast inequality for the majority of our city,” she says, “is something that is important for City Council to make as its top priority.”

Gym’s political action committee, which she registered on Dec. 24, 2014, had $23,400 on hand at the end of last year.

Jerry Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, says the union’s PAC will donate $11,500 to her campaign, the maximum contribution it can provide under the city’s campaign finance laws.

“Helen has been an advocate for children, an advocate for parents, an advocate for teachers and an advocate for good schools in the city,” says Jordan. “She is one of those advocates who speaks truth to power.”

Gym joins at least 11 other Democratic candidates in the race. Typically, five of the Council At-Large seats are won by Democrats, and two are won by Republicans.