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Advocates urge Council to approve money, but reject reorganization plan

By Dale Mezzacappa on May 9, 2012 03:34 PM

Several activists told City Council that it should require the School Reform Commission to go back to the drawing board on its controversial reorganization plan as a condition for approving badly needed additional funds.

"I don't know why they are doing both," said Susan DeJarnatt, who testified at the meeting.

DeJarnatt, a professor at Temple, told Council there were too many unanswered questions about how the planned achievement networks of 20 to 30 schools would be managed, and about the feasibility of closing 40 District-run schools in one year while charter enrollment expands.

"The School District has proposed, alongside its budgetary plan, several reorganization components, which are extremely problematic ... and potentially fiscally disastrous," said parent Rebecca Poyourow. "Please find funding to stabilize the District financially and for classrooms and instruction, but please say no to this reorganization plan."

Union leaders also expressed their concern about the blueprint, saying it would privatize the District and result in unionized workers losing their jobs. Council members seemed receptive to this. Education Committee Chair Jannie Blackwell called privatization and the layoff of relatively low-paid union workers "unconscionable."

Blackwell said that Council would recall Chief Recovery Officer Thomas Knudsen to answer more questions.

The District is asking Council to approve a change in property reassessment called the Actual Value Initiative (AVI) that would bring in $94 million in additional money. Without it, leaders have intimated that the District would have trouble opening schools next year.

"The plan has tainted important conversations about AVI and necessary local funding. … It should not get in the way," said Parents United for Public Education founder Helen Gym, who was speaking on behalf of the organization. (Disclosure: Gym is also a Notebook board member.)

More than 40 people signed up to testify Wednesday in the second day of hearings. Jerry Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, started off the session by calling the reorganization plan "cynical and destructive."

"There's absolutely no evidence that this enormous shakeup and reorganization will improve student achievement."

This followed a day in which School Reform Commission chairman Pedro Ramos, Knudsen, and Chief Academic Officer Penny Nixon were questioned for hours on details of its budget and on why they were not advocating more forcefully for money from the state.

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Comments (58)

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on May 9, 2012 5:16 pm

While I believe that the District needs more money, the City of Philadelphia needs to increase collections of unpaid property taxes. The City should start by targeting those who owe the most money.

Here's a petition:

Submitted by Joan Taylor on May 9, 2012 8:20 pm

I would never sign a petition on the basis of an anonymous tag.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on May 9, 2012 10:13 pm

You can read the petition and decide. It's not my petition, but I think it's sensible.

Submitted by Dirty up philly (not verified) on May 10, 2012 7:51 am

This is the guy on He writes the same thing EVERY DAY! Yes 400 million plus is owed to the city but the city does not want to go after it because they are all properties that owners will never pay the debt on. They are so run down. The have no doors, windows, roofs, structural damage, trees growing out of them and the cost is more then they are worth. So yes the city can take over ownership of these properties. What do they do with them then? CLEAN UP PHILLY WHAT IS YOUR REPLY TO THAT?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 10, 2012 1:18 pm

Seriously, are you starting that whole anonymous thing again. Please give it break already...please....People can use anonymous or any other name they want to use.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 9, 2012 5:03 pm

They are using a manufactured budget crisis to push through a privatization agenda.

They are asking for money while coming up with a "solution" that COSTS MORE than the current setup.

Are there a few programs that could close/relocate/consolidate, yes, but it doesn't have to and shouldn't cost anyone a job.

Stop asking for money to give to charters.

I hope the city council says no.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 9, 2012 6:16 pm

It's a pretty real crisis.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 9, 2012 7:55 pm

Your ass--it's a man made crisis named Corbett. Can you read??

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 10, 2012 11:12 am

I can read. Just because Philadelphia has a crisis because neither Corbett nor the City will give the District more money doesn't make it an "unreal crisis". It's a real crisis that has to be solved. Hopefully marching on Harrisburg will get more state support for the poorest school districts but if it doesn't we still have to deal with the deficit.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 10, 2012 12:20 pm

So you're saying if I hide my money then I'm poor. Silly. Marching is the first step ONLY. When they FEEL the pressure, they'll come around. They're coldblooded but not dumb. I got your point though.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 10, 2012 4:27 pm

"manufactured budget crisis" does NOT mean it isn't a real crisis. It means it is an unnecessary crisis. A crisis created for a purpose-- to dismantle an urban school system.

Submitted by A Concerned Citizen (not verified) on May 10, 2012 5:06 pm

The Master of the OBVIOUS speaks again. Who doesn't know that ??

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 10, 2012 7:03 pm

Why on earth people who who are on the same side come on here just to tear each other down, I really don't get.

Go comment on Youtube.

Submitted by A Concerned Citizen (not verified) on May 10, 2012 7:23 pm

Because you're not smart enough to understand criticism.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 10, 2012 9:05 pm

Oh, I didn't realize you were just a troll. Carry on.

Submitted by Anonymous 583 (not verified) on May 11, 2012 3:20 pm

I should probably have a more unique handle so his vitriol is directed at you and not me. I'm the poster of the first response and then the explanation.

My point was that it's a real crisis. Yes more money from the state can solve it but that's not going to happen. Corbett doesn't believe in equitable funding. Corbett doesn't believe in increasing funding services where they money goes to union members. Corbett doesn't believe in taxing for essential services. Corbett thinks that even though Philadelphia teachers are paid worse than most of our suburban neighbors that the answer is to cut salaries and benefits. So if Corbett isn't going to equitably fund Philadelphia's schools, the federal government isn't doing it either, and the city is too poor to fill the full budget gap although they should be able to fill the $94 million with AVI funds then WE are in a crisis that WE cannot solve without cuts. That doesn't mean those cuts are good, or right, or fair but it is a crisis we have to deal with.

I don't want people here to mistake how serious this deficit is and that no savior is swooping down to save us. Our debt financing costs $267 million a year! That's half as much as all teacher salaries and benefits. So it's crazy to think about taking on much more debt when it already eats up 10% of the budget. That's about half as much as all teacher salaries and benefits combined. We need to continue the political fight to make sure the whole state appreciates funding school districts in poorer areas where teachers are paid less but more is expected from us but that doesn't mean it's not going to be a bad year until the state realizes this.

Submitted by A Concerned Citizen (not verified) on May 11, 2012 3:29 pm

And you believe that?? Hope you feel better.

Submitted by Anonymous 583 (not verified) on May 11, 2012 4:42 pm

Do I believe what?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 9, 2012 8:07 pm

I totally made crisis. The man who made the crisis is Corbett.
Plenty of money for prisons crisis where that's concerned.
SHAME ON ALL OF YOU....Corbett, Ramos, Nutter, Knudsen.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 9, 2012 8:15 pm

I totally made crisis. The man who made the crisis is Corbett.
Plenty of money for prisons crisis where that's concerned.
SHAME ON ALL OF YOU....Corbett, Ramos, Nutter, Knudsen.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 9, 2012 9:28 pm

The state's revenues are higher than expected. They are projecting a $400 million surplus by the end of the year.

We could tax the extraction of natural resources (Marcellus Shale?). We could simply allocate education dollars fairly-- more affluent districts that face fewer problems and have larger local tax bases got a fraction of the cuts Philly did.

We could make an attempt to force the state that took over the district to fund that district.

But instead, we are handing our children over to a bunch of businessmen.

Submitted by Anonymous 583 (not verified) on May 11, 2012 3:08 pm

And in the process taking on $200+ million in debt for the District that already has to pay $267 million a year in debt service.

There should be no growth in charters until all charters agree to enrollment caps so the District can manage growth.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 11, 2012 9:47 am

You are absolutely right! Governor Corbett and the republicans have been trying to dismantle public education from the beginning. Where is Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton now because I do'n't want to call the race card, but let's face it, at the end of the day, it's the African American kids that are losing out on what could be a good education. It's the kids from the ghettos that have NO OTHER HOPE of getting out besides a good education. They don't want that to happen, they want these kids to turn into criminals. The charter schools won't keep them, then where will they go? But you are correct, this is a budget crisis manufactured to dismantle urban public education as we know it.

Submitted by MBA to M'Ed mom (not verified) on May 11, 2012 10:29 pm

what do Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have to do with black students in Philadelphia?? Your comment about those two makes no sense?

As much as I disagree with the privatization of public schools, I keep seeing in traditional public schools ,behaviors such as teacher and staff screaming at students, fake suspensions (telling a student they are suspended without documentation) and grading on behavior alone, not on formal curriculmn assessment.

Until I feel that the SDP is committed to respecting, educating, and engaging the most vunerable of the cities residents, the students, I will not oppose the closing of 40 schools and I will ask my fellow parents to follow suit.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 12, 2012 2:59 am

Perhaps this will answer your question:

Submitted by Gamal Sherif on May 12, 2012 7:34 am

Here's an interesting line from the Truth-out link: "People want to take the money we spend on wars ... and use it on education."

Public education is underfunded because of 1) mismanagement, 2) mis-use of our military in countries like Afghanistan, and 3) warped emphasis on privatized wealth at the expense of the common good.

1) In 2001, the Notebook* reported that the State of Pennsylvania had taken over the District. How has that oversight helped students and teachers be more engaged? What stability or efficiencies has state oversight provided? Most importantly, what are examples of effective school district organization? How can we help teachers create effective working conditions so that they and their students can flourish?

2) In 2011, the Washington Post** reported that "[t]he U.S. military is on track to spend $113 billion on its operations in Afghanistan this fiscal year, and it is seeking $107 billion for the next." Are there better uses for that money?

3) The Philadelphia Inquirer*** recently reported that the outgoing CEO of Sunoco is receiving about $37 million in compensation for liquidating assets. How can we create a sustainable economy that honors labor and fosters a commitment to the social good? Individual excellence is essential, but we are all more effective when we advance social equity along with individual liberty.


Submitted by Philly Parent and Teacher (not verified) on May 12, 2012 7:12 am

While I agree more money should be shifted to "butter" from "guns" (e.g. Afghanistan) and the pay out to the CEO of Sunoco for laying off hundreds/thousands of workers is immoral at best, possibly criminal, I'm not sure how this shift in spending will occur. While Democrats in the US Congress might talk of reducing the Pentagon's budget, their proposed reduction is miniscule (less than 1% - this is post "withdrawal" from Iraq.). Meanwhile, moderate Republicans are ousted (e.g. Lugar).

As far as the Commonwealth of PA, sure, it has provided none of what is claimed to bring in December 2001 when we were taken over right before the winter break. Corbett, a strong voucher and charter proponent, wants "the market" to solve problems.

In this current climate, what do we do? Creating more magnet schools and admitting only those who qualify is not a solution. Creating charters which will "council" and kick out students who don't comply is not the solution. Under Knudson/Ramos/Nixon, their solution is to shut neighborhood schools. I guess they plan on opening more discipline schools for all the students who aren't accepted at magnets and charters. The inequity in the SDP is so stark already - I can't be the only person who notices it is a school system of "haves and have nots."

Any solutions?

Submitted by Gamal Sherif on May 12, 2012 3:09 pm


1) Reauthorize a modified ESEA that acknowledges "college and career readiness" with an emphasize on systemic creation of "school readiness." All children should arrive at school safe, well-fed, well-rested, and curious.
2) Re-visit the 14th Amendment and the Brown v. Board decision with consideration of funding inequities that create a "suspect class." All schools should be able to fund education at equal (if not equitable) levels.

1) Ensure teacher representation on state-wide panels that roll-out RTTT.
2) Ensure equitable funding of all school districts akin to NJ's Abbott decisions.

1) Create real equitable choice options so that students can attend schools of interest anywhere in the city -- or across District boundaries.
2) Develop and sustain teacher leadership so that teachers lead the integration of curriculum, instruction, assessment and policy that engages students and teachers.

1) Integrate the labor frame with professional and social justice frames for a enriched unionism.
2) Cultivate cohorts of teacher leaders who are connected and can advocate for effective working conditions, participate in teacher-led research, and foster democratic learning environments .

1) Provide operational flexibility for principals to build community partnerships, coach teachers, know students, and build the capacity of learning organizations.
2) Require extensive support for nurses, social workers, therapists and counselors so that all students with diverse needs are recognized and supported.

1) View teachers as experts and support the professional development needed so that teachers can effectively lead schools.
2) Create professional learning communities within and between schools and the community so that teachers are facilitating and modeling the collaboration necessary to life-long learning.

Submitted by Andrew Saltz (not verified) on May 12, 2012 6:27 pm

I need you to run for something so that I can vote for you. Thanks.

Submitted by MBA to M'Ed mom (not verified) on May 12, 2012 7:03 pm

I concur!! you have my vote too!! : )

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on May 12, 2012 11:13 pm

At the District level, would you get rid of schools with admission requirements / magnets? How else will their be equitable choices? Also, should schools be able to add to their funds with parent driven fundraisers (which favors schools with a more middle class student body - e.g. parents from Meredith gave money when there were budget cuts), events (e.g. concerts, conferences, etc. like held by GAMP and SLA which raise funds), funding from universities (e.g. Penn Alexander), etc.? These lead to more inequity.

Submitted by PhillyTeach (not verified) on May 13, 2012 10:59 pm

I worked with you at a Mosaica school in Northeast PA. You were an inspiration then and you continue to be a progressive on the education front. Thank you for responding with such an thoughtful and realistic plan. There needs to be more discussion like this. The SRC needs someone like you, in fact, have you submitted your interest in running the district? Thanks again! It truly was such a nice relief to read an actual plan than more finger pointing.

Submitted by Philadelphian but not for long (not verified) on May 14, 2012 8:33 pm

You did not respond to my post regarding inequitable funding / fundraising. Science Leadership Academy Home and School is raising $40,000 to keep the building open to 6 pm (so paying staff), paying for supplies, etc. In my neighborhood school, I stay past 5 pm but I don't get paid. I have to buy hundreds of dollars in basic supplies from paper to pens to tape out of pocket. The list goes on - once again penalizing teachers who work in neighborhood schools.

How can a distribute be equitable when parents can raised tens of thousands for one school while nothing in another? When one school can hold a conference and raised tens of thousands and others none? When one school gets funding from an outside sponsor (e.g. Univ of Penn in the case of Penn Alexander) an others get nothing? When one school has alumni who give and give (e.g. Central) and others have nothing? Is this an equitable system?

Submitted by Gamal Sherif on May 15, 2012 7:28 am

Hi "Philadelphian but not for long."

I hesitate to respond to anonymous posts, but I sense that you may have reasons.

When it comes to parents' monetary contributions to schools, I think you may be confusing a remedy (Help! My child's school needs money!) with the cause (Help! Our schools are underfunded!). What's a parent to do?

If you look back at point #2 under Federal Lever, you'll see I propose a solution to inequitable funding: "Re-visit the 14th Amendment and the Brown v. Board decision with consideration of funding inequities that create a "suspect class." All schools should be able to fund education at equal (if not equitable) levels.

We wouldn't be having this conversation if our schools were equitable funded in the first place.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on May 15, 2012 9:37 am

Here are some numbers that you may find interesting in terms of inequities within the District:
Central H.S. total spent FY12: $13,181,852 (divide by) 2373 (enrollment) = $5,555.00 per child
Similarly Masterman H.S. = $6,960.00 per child
SLA = $6,294.00 per child

compare these to South Philadelphia H.S. = $11,980.00 per child

Can you check your facts before you complain?

Submitted by PhillyTeach (not verified) on May 15, 2012 12:24 pm

In consideration of "Facts" can you check demographics with regard to special education and english language learners. Although over 11,000 is spend per student at South Philadelphia, they have a high Special Ed and English language learner population, so more money needs to be spend in that regard. SLA, Central, Masterman, and many other magnet schools have less students with those kinds of challenges. They also have more involved parent groups and community donations which are not figured into the per pupil cost.

Student demographic should ALWAYS be taken into consideration. It's shocking that no one has thought of that yet.

Also, schools need to have more authority to suspend and expel chronic behavior problems, as charters do. Schools are currently punished for suspending students. That's just not fair. I'd almost like to see more money put into disciplinary or behavior intervention type schools than traditional public school. The schools are suffering, the students, the teachers, the administrators because chronic behavior problems are placed in regular education classes. How would you feel if a child with a serious mental illness or a history of violence was sitting next to your child? But that's a whole other problem that no one wants to address, especially the SRC.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on May 15, 2012 1:56 pm

O.K. Special Ed breakdown:
Central H.S.: MG 33.2%, Disabilities 0.9% ($499,807, $94,950 respectively) ELL 0.9% ($0 ESOL)
South Philly H.S.: MG 1.1%, Disabilities 21.9% ($2,324, $693,450 respectively)ELL 28% ($662,200 ESOL (divide this by 702 (enrollment) = $945 per child))

So in terms of Special Ed money the expenditure per child works out to be: $695,774 (S.Philly)/702 = $991 and $595,757 (Central)/2373 = $251

So then per child that Special Ed and ESOL cost at S. Philly H.S. is $945 +$991= $1936 which falls short of the more than $6000 per child more that is being spent there than at Central.

Community donations don't come out of taxpayer funds; and the last I checked low income always gets priority over middle class in grant funding.

Emotions like to overlook details. How about someone else bother to do research as well?

Submitted by Gamal Sherif on May 15, 2012 2:40 pm

Ms. Cheng,

Your diligence is commendable and deeply appreciated.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on May 15, 2012 2:23 pm

And likewise your "Solutions" is ideal. So, are you in the running for the next PSD Superintendent?

Submitted by Gamal Sherif on May 15, 2012 3:09 pm

Ms. Cheng,

There are teachers all across the District who have outstanding professional judgement and who should be involved in District policies. Any worthwhile and sustainable education reform rests on teacher leadership.

Teachers groups are meeting to develop the many dimensions of teacher leadership. Check out Tag Philly, PhilaSoup, Teacher Leadership PLC and other venues.

As a full-time classroom teacher, I need effective working conditions so that my students, colleagues and I can flourish. I am specifically interested in developing and supporting teacher-led schools.

If you'd like more information or want to connect, please contact me via: LinkedIn, or

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on May 16, 2012 7:05 am

Gamal, as noted by other commenters you have a good perspective for a policy maker. Perhaps you should consider running for office. I notice (per a link you gave) that like a lot of other teachers, you have chosen not to live in the City. We stayed in the City, even after my husband's job moved out. I am reconsidering the wisdom of this choice, especially with all this "witch hunting" going on just because Philly doesn't like change, and can't see past it's own fears. If there is a problem with the current proposal, then install a check, such as a point where the public can actually veto a choice. More often than not, it is not constructive criticism that is being voiced, and there aren't alternate solutions proposed. The system as it is now, is corrupt; Getting more State money and having State management has not, will not, solve the problem.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on May 15, 2012 1:19 pm

Can I add that S. Philly H.S. spends $553,600 in Title I and Central H.S. spends $348,290 ($790 and $147 per child respectively).

Add $790 of Title I (poverty) spending to the $2000 of Special Ed and ESOL, and you still fall short by $3000 in accounting for the $6000 difference (and this is not taking into account that Central has these expenditures as well, so the difference is actually greater).

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on May 15, 2012 2:22 pm

One last reply: In the end I agree with you in terms of the discipline issue. The real key to the disparity in per student expenditure is the class size. At Central, the classes are packed to the legal limit, but as per your end comment, this is only possible because there are not so many behavior issues. Since the State funds per child, then unfortunately this becomes an important figure... where does the rest go in the case of schools like Central?

I just don't like to see people making judgments based on vague impressions. It's worth whatever time you have to check out as much as possible whatever information is being given.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on May 15, 2012 2:31 pm

Sorry, S. Philly H.S. has an enrollment of 701 not 702 (error reading my own handwriting), but this shouldn't change the figures too much.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 9, 2012 9:19 pm

Advocating for the money but against the plan seems like pretty bad strategy. Call their bluff; clearly the AVI proposal is designed to fund the implementation of the plan. If they want their plan so bad, make them raise the money through PILOT's, increasing the gross receipts tax, and other avenues. Where's the Chamber of Commerce and our major institutions when you need them? They want this plan, but they want regular people to pay for it. And the "advocacy" community falls into line sending a confusing message to Council. If our adversaries continue to say that funding and the education plan are linked, and we say "no they're not" what kind of message does that send. Get them the 94 million and they'll be well on their way to implementation of this thing. At the very least, if we call their bluff it will be a point of pressure that will get the mayor going back to the district and saying "negotiate" or we won't get this money. Instead, you're shooting yourselves in the foot. It's really quite foolish.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 9, 2012 9:46 pm

I agree with you but at least, it's a step toward hostility. It's far better than laying down like chumps. Hopefully, if Walker loses in Wisconsin, the tide will turn and common decency will return. FUND THE DAMN SCHOOLS FAIRLY !!!!!!!

Submitted by Anonymous 583 (not verified) on May 11, 2012 3:08 pm

I hope you're right but I'm not sure that having $94 million less for the District will convince them not to implement their plan. It will just increase their push for less experience, cheaper teachers.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 9, 2012 10:11 pm

Talk about the LOYAL OPPOSITION!!

Submitted by Ron Whitehorne on May 10, 2012 8:27 am

Jerry Jordan was the first speaker and    His testimony drew questions and comments from most council people.   PFT has initated a coalition of community based educations groups and unions that is mobilizing to defeat the plan.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 10, 2012 1:31 pm

Thank you Ron!!! I am tired of reading nonsense on this website about Jerry Jordan being a sellout, etc. People do not realize he is an intelligent individual who always strategizes and is smart because he doesn't let the other side see "his playing hand". His testimony was excellent. He really made his point and I think a lot of City Council members are on board with him.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 10, 2012 1:08 pm

Ron, I'm back again...I do think this plan will be defeated. Too much money has already been mispent under the previous administration (Ackerman et al). I can't see money being thrown the SRC's way.
One thing that aggravated me was the surplus that PA has now and when questioned about it, Corbett said maybe some of that money will go towards education. He needs a wake up call!!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 10, 2012 1:50 pm

Corbett needs MUCH MORE than a wake up call.

Submitted by king student (not verified) on May 10, 2012 1:41 pm

I think it is wrong to close down 40 public schools in one year and expand charter schools because some students isn't smart enough to attend at these schools. The reason why we have public schools now because some students cant get into none of the smart schools so they attend schools that they can get accepted in. If the district close down public schools, the drop out rate will be increasing faster than the charter school expansion rate!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 10, 2012 1:26 pm

They aren't "smart" schools. They may take kids who they think will have high test scores or kids whose parents have the opportunity to be involved, but you are JUST as SMART as they are! Don't sell yourself short.

Submitted by MBA to M'Ed mom (not verified) on May 12, 2012 7:15 pm

The kids in charter schools are no different than you 'King Student'. It's a luck and a hit or miss to get a kid into charter schools, it feels like chasing elite private schools, it takes that much effort on a parents part.

Never ever let anyone tell you that you are any less smart than any other person in this country. You deserve to receive as good as education as any other American.

We as adults should be giving you a traditional public school that helps you become the best student possible that you enjoy attending and do not feel the need to drop out of school without graduating.

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