Helen Gym is a parent activist in Philadelphia who recently won a seat on the City Council, where she advocates on behalf of the city’s beleaguered and underfunded public schools.

In this article in The Nation, Gym explains that Philadelphia parents and activists have developed a successful way to fight back against the DeVos agenda.

DeVos, she notes, was confirmed in a Senate vote that was humiliating; the resistance to the billionaire voucher advocate was so intense that it required the vice-president to cast a tie-breaking vote.

Philadelphia was stripped bare by greedy reformers. But the public organized.

In 2002, the state of Pennsylvania took over Philadelphia’s public schools, stripping away local control, massively expanding charters, and starving existing public schools of funding and resources. Then, in 2013, thanks to a GOP-led state austerity budget that cut almost a billion dollars from public education, Philadelphia’s state-controlled school system closed down 24 public schools and lost thousands of school staff in the name of cost savings, then expanded thousands of new charter spots at nearly the same cost.

In response, Philadelphians took to the streets and organized. Parents, educators, students, and community members built coalitions among labor, clergy, business, and civic organizations. We fought against an agenda of disinvestment, consolidation, and neglect, and instead pressed forward with a commitment to establishing a baseline level of staffing and resources for every school.

Parents forged a legal strategy for ensuring adequate programs and a quality curriculum. After the massive budget cuts hit, parents filed more than 800 complaints with the state’s Department of Education about overcrowding and curriculum deficiencies and then won a court order, effectively forcing the state to investigate the problems and fix any violations of state code.

Meanwhile, years of organizing efforts by high-school students made strides towards ending zero-tolerance policies and improving school climate. A long-sought change in the student code of conduct in 2012 limited the use of suspensions and was accompanied by new, district-wide efforts to implement restorative practices. More recently, new district policies further restricted the use of suspensions with young children in response to dress-code violations.

Faced with continued austerity, we marched, took over school-board meetings, and lobbied City Council offices. And we started to win more victories: City officials began to acknowledge they could do more and boosted their financial support for the struggling school system. We drew on our networks to find allies in other communities across the state suffering from similar circumstances.

This is the coalition that helped throw out a one-term GOP governor in 2014 and installed Tom Wolf, a governor who centered his campaign on fair and equitable education funding. And this is the coalition that the following year elected Jim Kenney, a pro–public education mayor, and boosted me, a mother of three kids and longtime education activist, into a seat on Philadelphia’s City Council.

We’ve already shifted the narrative in our city away from austerity and back to real investments that restore essential services to our schools. With a more unified political leadership, and with the help of boosts in state and local funding, we’re putting hundreds of nurses and counselors back into school buildings that had been stripped of these vital personnel. We’re also protecting immigrant students, ensuring water access and safety, expanding the teaching force, and re-embracing in-district models of improving schools rather than outsourcing interventions to unreliable education-management organizations.

Gym writes that Philadelphians are developing a new agenda, one that rebuffs the entrepreneurs and DeVos followers, one that invests in the city’s children rather than profit centers. It CAN be done, she writes, and Philadelphia is doing it.