The Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools (PCAPS), along with parents, educators, and service providers, announced a platform in January in support of building community schools across the city.
In its platform, PCAPS is asking for the creation of a citywide task force, funds to support that task force, and a shared definition of community schools.
Mayor Kenney has made community schools a top priority, saying that his administration will create 25 community schools over the next four years. Kenney’s chief education officer, Otis Hackney, and City Council President Darrell Clarke have also expressed support.
Still, Ron Whitehorne, PCAPS coordinator, said he anticipates a struggle to get people on board with the idea.
“Discussions are positive, but there have been no real commitments,” he said. “The next three months are critical, as Kenney or Clarke could roll out a plan in that time. We will need broader support for any plan to be successfully implemented.”
Whitehorne said that PCAPS wants more than just supports and services in schools. How community schools are defined and implemented, he said, are “likely to be a focus of negotiation and struggle.”
Community schools attempt to serve as social hubs for communities, engaging families by offering health and social services in neighborhood schools. Whitehorne said he hopes Philadelphia uses this method as a turnaround strategy for low-performing schools.
“We are seeking a meeting with the District to press them on the issue” of community schools, he said.
The task force that PCAPS is proposing, which would include activists and teachers, would supervise community school implementation in Philadelphia.
“We want the task force to be a representative group that is supported by the District,” Whitehorne said. “It would need fair and adequate funding in order to do that effectively.”
Evette Jones, a Philadelphia Federation of Teachers member, serves on a 30-member PCAPS task force that is charged with refining PCAPS’ goals regarding community schools and representing community needs.
“We’ve been pushing for community schools since the school closings in 2012 and continue to advocate for conversion today,” Jones said.