fbpx Skip to content
<h1><noscript><img class=

Member Spotlight: Rochelle Porto

As a veteran teacher, with 21 years of experience, Rochelle Porto’s story is full of ups and downs due to unions’ heavy-handed interference in public education. After teaching students in regular education classes for 10 years, Rochelle Porto chose to transition to teach special education students after she saw first-hand the needs of special education students in her school. Rochelle enjoys teaching her students and loves her job, but over time, she became unhappy with her union’s politically-motivated actions.

First, her union, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT), pushed ideologies that she did not agree with. Worse, they were using her membership dues to do so.

Rochelle discovered that PFT brought “divisive and political ideology into schools, which puts a lot of pressure on teachers and makes it harder for us to do our jobs.” She added, “I also believe the union does not stand up for kids, and I care about the children I teach and think we should do what’s best for them.”

When Rochelle worked in school administration, she discovered that not only was she not represented by a union, but she found out that she had all the same benefits as when she was in a collective bargaining unit. Upon returning to teaching, the district’s onboarding process mandated that she meet with the PFT union representative. During the meeting, the union representative told Rochelle that she would “lose everything” if she did not join PFT, and she saw the union lead other teachers to believe that, without union membership, they would lose out on liability insurance and benefits. Rochelle knew that wasn’t true.

This was the second time that Rochelle chose not to join the union.

When Rochelle first resigned from the PFT in 2012, she was forced to pay agency fees. When Rochelle returned to teaching in 2018, this time, thanks to the Janus v AFSCME decision, Rochelle didn’t have to pay agency fees and is still free today. 

After leaving PFT, Rochelle noted that she reclaimed her voice as a teacher. “When I left the union,” Rochelle said, “I felt freer. I felt like I had my voice back, both as a teacher and as an individual.”

Rochelle said, “When people don’t know the facts, they are more easily manipulated into making choices they wouldn’t otherwise make. That’s true for people in any line of work, including teachers. Union officials know this.” She added, “I believe that for teachers to have a voice, they first need the truth.”

Even after Janus, Rochelle saw the negative impact PFT had on her school district. Specifically, the union did not advocate for the needs of the students in her school both disabled and non-disabled. During the pandemic, the PFT lobbied to keep schools closed even though Rochelle’s special education students could not receive the services they needed at home. Each time the school district said it would reopen schools for in-person learning, PFT negotiated changes at the last minute to keep the district closed to in-person learning. Students in her special education classes struggled with virtual learning and their parents clamored for a return to in-person teaching.

Knowing the needs of her students and having her voice freed from union control, Rochelle returned to school to teach her students in-person a month before PFT allowed union members to return to in-person teaching. As she noted, her special needs students and their parents were happy to return to the classroom and there was near-perfect attendance for two consecutive months.

Americans for Fair Treatment

Americans for Fair Treatment is a free, membership, non-profit organization designed to help public sector workers exercise their First Amendment rights without fear of coercion from unions.