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Commentary: Mayor missed the meaning of "public" in public ed

By Helen Gym on Aug 27, 2012 11:48 AM

Helen GymIt probably wouldn’t surprise you to hear a Pennsylvania politician questioning the very definition and premise of public education. It may surprise you that Philadelphia’s leading Democrat is on record saying public vs. private ought to be meaningless when it comes to education.

At a press conference Thursday, Mayor Michael Nutter said that parents deserve school choice and that public, private, religious designations don’t matter. In his talk, the mayor went on to say:

"I’m not getting caught up in all this. At my level, these are esoteric debates that ultimately don't mean anything to these young people sitting here in this room.”

Children care about their teachers, recess, lunch and whether they’re in a safe learning environment.

“That’s what this is all about,” he asserted.

Although the mayor certainly hasn’t been hanging around the high schoolers I know, he may be right that my 9-year-old isn’t really paying attention to such discussions.

Does that mean we shouldn’t either?

Ask a parent who can’t dream of paying a $26,100 tuition bill from Penn Charter whether a high-quality, free public elementary school in their neighborhood is a matter of meaningless, “esoteric debate.”

Philadelphia public schools are 85 percent students of color and 80 percent economically disadvantaged. We have 20,000 children classified as having special needs and almost 12,000 English language learners. Is it “meaningless” that private and religious institutions hold the right to discriminate against and exclude those whom they choose not to serve? There’s no mandate for private schools to provide language services for new immigrants, serve special-needs students, or take recently adjudicated youth. They have the right to promote religious scripture and denounce same-sex orientation. They have the right to deny collective bargaining and employ non-certified teachers.

Would the mayor consider it a matter of meaningless, “esoteric debate” to take some lessons from Philadelphia’s failed history with privateeers like Edison Schools Inc.,  which exploited public funds for private gain with miserable results? Is it meaningless to take a look at our neighbors in Chester City and consider the fractured relationship they have with a charter school run by a for-profit company and a bankrupt school district?

I’m sure Gov. Tom Corbett would love for us to call concerns about transparency with voucher programs like the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) meaningless and esoteric. A recent New York Times investigation found that EITC programs nationwide permit forfeited tax dollars to go toward private and religious institutions that might otherwise be blocked from receiving public monies. 

No matter to Pennsylvania. Since 2001, Pennsylvania has diverted close to $400 million to organizations that give out the scholarships. The state's program was cited extensively in the Times investigation for questionable practices. And Harrisburg just approved a new $50 million-per-year tax credit targeted toward students who live in areas with low-performing schools.

Notably, the Times cited the architects of the program crowing about the intricate and ingenious ways they were able to evade scrutiny. Perhaps if fewer people treated this as an “esoteric” subject, there would be more public accountability.

We have more than a decade of money and broken promises poured into the idea that there’s some magic solution to neglected public schools. Philadelphia has been ground zero for every manner of experimentation from reformers touting the miracles of the private sector. When the mayor calls the “public” in public education a mere label, he dumbs down important conversations about what lessons we’ve gained from using public funds for too many failed private enterprises.

He plays into widespread disinvestment in public education and the resulting gross inequities. He gives cover to a governor whose billion-dollar slashing of public education funding and promotion of private and charter enterprises have resulted in school districts across the state starved to the point of dysfunction.

Thanks to such efforts, a Philadelphia public school classroom is $78,000 poorer than a classroom in a surrounding suburb. Three-quarters of our elementary schools lack a certified librarian. We’ve got one nurse for every 1,500 students and a mindset that only guarantees nursing care for the “medically fragile.”  Is it any surprise that the choice debate is here and not in Lower Merion, which generously funds its schools?

The mayor is right that we don’t need meaningless, esoteric debates. What parents want is a free, safe, well-resourced neighborhood public school for our kids and we want to know why politicians can move heaven and hell to make everything BUT that a priority.

We want a smart conversation about the things that our public schools SHOULD provide to every child and what resources it will take to make that happen. We want our political leaders to know that a public school is a communal responsibility, not a matter of individual whims.

Most of all, we need our mayor to understand that – at his level – underfunded public schools serving high-poverty, high-needs children vs. a failed history of exploitation and privatization is NEVER a meaningless, esoteric debate.

Comments (53)

Submitted by Samuel Reed III on August 27, 2012 10:59 am

Helen it was great seeing this piece unfold from your Twitters feeds at @ParentsUnitedPA . Thank you for all your advocacy for "public education". I will definately keep following your tweets.

Submitted by garth (not verified) on August 27, 2012 11:58 am

Great analysis Helen, you're right on the mark as always. As a public school parent, I sometimes feel as if the pro-charter crowd has so much political power in Pennsylvania that our public officials, including Mayor Nutter, are afraid to offend them in any way so they don't even protest or fight any of their bad ideas. I think that the entire concept of "for-profit" charter schools is really twisted, and should be illegal. I would never send any of my kids to that type of school. That profit margin is created by establishing schools without any gym, library or art class. Why pay an art teacher, art is not part of the PSSA test. As someone who was hyperactive as a child and mainly interested in sports at that age, I feel bad for all the 10-year old boys with high energy levels going to. a school with no gym or physical fitness outlet, That's a really bad combination, leads to all kinds of bad outcomes, and I don't think that's an esoteric concept.

Submitted by LS Teach (not verified) on August 28, 2012 7:55 am

There are many Philadelphia public schools that do not provide gym, library or art class. My school, which is K to 8, does not have art or library. We used to provide multiple opportunities for students to experience the arts in school and in our after school programs. With changes in leadership these have gone by the wayside, along with many fun after school programs and most all middle school sports.

It is alarming that there is not an uproar that the School District of Philadelphia canceled all competitive middle school sports, except football and one girls' sport in the spring. I urge someone to find a suburban district that only offers one interscholastic sport for middle school boys and girls. But they needed to save a little over 2 million dollars by cutting these programs, so I guess everyone agrees with the decision.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 27, 2012 11:23 am

I took it as a "...nothing to see here folks, move along..." type of comment. THE issue in Philadelphia public education right now is who is holding the purse strings. The Archdiocese didn't go in the private direction for nothing. They want to be part of the "portfolio" os schools which will benefit from the random munificence of Mark Gleason and his crowd.

We the public need to stop the complete corporate takeover of our schools before it is tool late.

Home run, again, Helen.

Lisa Haver

Submitted by Ron Whitehorne on August 27, 2012 12:59 pm

Right on, Helen.   It seems like all the corporate school reformers have decided that they need preface everything they do with the line that "it's not about ideology" as they move forward with their agenda of privatization and austerity.   Those of us who fight for equity and full funding for schools are, apparently, hopeless ideologues, while Nutter, Gleason, et. al. are just pragmatic folk looking for solutions.   Problem for them is that the facts, as you eloquently point out,  don't square with this rosy narrative.  

Submitted by Helen Gym on August 27, 2012 12:17 pm

I think you provided a great distillation of the arguments and one that we have to think substantively to combat. One to add, they are going at this like we just support "great" schools with no regard to what makes great schools. Funding matters. Curriculum matters. Professional development matters. Serving all populations matters. Governance matters.

 

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 27, 2012 9:32 pm

What would you say to the parents of all the local neighborhood children that are going to the new Edmunds next year? What do you think they would say to you and Helen after reading these comments? Be honest..,

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 27, 2012 10:45 pm

If I was a parent at Edmunds, I would ask why Edmunds did not receive a $2 million grant in 2011-2012. I would ask the same of parents at Cleveland. Why are schools only getting necessary resources when they become charters?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2012 7:49 am

You can blame Corbett all you want but money wasn't the issue at Edmunds. Our kids got a brand new addition about 10 years ago, a new library, computer lab, etc. There was a TON of money put into our school but it didn't make one bit of difference....6 principals in 5 years.

Why would ANYONE donate money to an organization that is an abject failure from a management perspective. Please tell me why....

My kids are finally getting what they deserve.

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2012 7:06 am

Why did Edmunds have 6 principals in 5 years? This is, unfortunately, not unique to Edmunds. I realize this question is for the powers that be at 440/SRC. Were all of the principals inept? Were they undermined by their bosses? The issue of revolving doors for administrators has to be addressed.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on August 30, 2012 11:24 pm

You are right on the money. the turnover of principals in the District is insane. This year, John Barry Elementary at 59th & Race has its third principal in three years. Without stable leadership, no organization is going to be effective.

Submitted by Concerned Philadelphian (not verified) on August 31, 2012 6:35 am

This is an indictment of the placement of principals. (Nixon is in charge.) Principals are too often placed because of who they know and not what they are capable of doing. 440 should carefully select principals and require a five year commitment to a school. Schools with the most stability usually have the best track record assuming the person put in a leadership position is capable versus another "friend of Penny." There are also some lousy principals at magnet schools who go "untouched" because they can stay under the radar. They don't have the same academic and discipline issues to deal with and can kick students out.

It is amazing that a school district the size of Philadelphia keeps so many incompetent principals. Look at the placement of principals this year - many are in revolving doors - going from school to school. Few went through a site selection process. Far too many hate teachers and somehow assume they know what they are doing. How can they evaluate and rate teachers when they were incompetent teachers? Just look at the walk though process. It is a series of 'check offs" which take little "training" to administer.

I've had far too many bully principals who gloat about their power.

Submitted by Elizabeth (not verified) on August 27, 2012 1:34 pm

Amazing piece - you are now among my heroes. Wish we could clone you (and the Notebook) for Delaware.

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on August 27, 2012 3:21 pm

Helen--You need to stop !!! Your posts are like Manna from heaven. In any case, Nutter like his buddy, Obama, has been a major disappointment for all Philadelphians but especially those of color. He's positioning himself for a big corporate money job when his time as mayor is over. He's another reason why unions better mobilize against him and his ilk. Yes, his education comment was stunningly dumb and insensitive. What a BOOB !!!

Submitted by Eileen Duffey (not verified) on August 27, 2012 4:38 pm

Thanks Helen.
Who will bear responsibility for the underfunding of our schools?
Nutter's comment about what children care about was an insult to those of who know that diminished quality is not something a child should need to wrap his/her head around. Should I discuss the student to nurse ration with a child?
In 2008 I was responsible for 550 students in one school.
In 2009 I was responsible for 750 students in two schools.
In September 2011 I was responsible for 850 students in two schools.
In January 2012 I was responsible for 1450 in three schools.
Beginning next week I will be responsible for for 1890 students in three schools.
Where will this end?

Eileen Duffey
School Nurse

Submitted by G (not verified) on August 27, 2012 6:19 pm

It is so sad that Nutter has become a tool and ally for the worst Governor we have ever had! I had such high hopes for him when I voted for him. I still have some faith in Obama but if those who voted for him fail to bother to vote in midterm elections-there is no point. He can't do it alone.I don't know what will be worse-having Romney as President,or living in a country full of people stupid enough to elect him.Corbett is probably more evil than Romney-almost as evil as Christie in New Jersey. Public education will soon be a thing of the past.

Submitted by Ken Derstine on August 27, 2012 4:55 pm

Helen's comment lays out in an excellent way the hypocrisy of Mayor Nutter and all of those who are promoting the privatization of public schools. I disagree with an earlier commenter who said Mayor Nutter must be afraid to offend the pro-charter crowd so he goes along with them. Nutter has shown by his actions that he is completely against the working people. City workers have not had a contract for three years! He is thinking about his career path and he must impress his corporate buddies to move on up. The question is why do unions, including the PFT, keep endorsing people like him? Shouldn't workers have our own party that has a program in our interests?

Politicians like Nutter must use Orwellian doublespeak to cover up the fact that their agenda will devastate the upcoming generation, particularly in low income areas. They talk about "choice" where there is no choice because of the conditions of poverty, which is the main problem in most schools, that they are creating.

Their methods are profoundly undemocratic and authoritarian. They cannot speak the truth about the charter agenda because the truth would outrage everyone. So they must engage in a political game of three card monte to divert attention from the fact that they are under funding public schools, charter schools are no better, and many worse, than public schools, and that they are creating a segregated school system which will leave tens of thousands of children behind!

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on August 27, 2012 4:22 pm

Anon--I am attempting to respond to your email but was just notified that your email does not exist. I don't drink so I am sure you posted a comment. In any case, very few rational persons would disagree with Helen.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2012 1:34 pm

Nutter had no competition, none, nada, zilch, niet !!

Submitted by niel (not verified) on August 27, 2012 6:30 pm

Perplexing & strange. What is Nutter thinking? Is he a closet Republican? How can he possibly think that public education is meaningless? How can we have a leader who thinks this? It's just as well his time is running out, as his years as mayor have become more and more disappointing.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 27, 2012 7:26 pm

Nutter is a product of parochial schools K-12 including St. Joe's prep. Why is everyone surprised?

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on August 27, 2012 8:06 pm

Because he happens to be a PUBLICLY elected official.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on August 27, 2012 7:29 pm

Whew! What a powerful and articulate commentary.

Submitted by MBA to M'Ed mom (not verified) on August 27, 2012 9:41 pm

Love this!!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 27, 2012 11:00 pm

Nutter is right. He supports what is best for the children, and that includes choice. His job is not to pander to special interest groups like the teachers union, who is simply looking out for its own interests.

Submitted by Helen Gym on August 27, 2012 11:22 pm

No one's denying the right to choice in education. People have always had the right to choose to send their child to non-public institutions. The challenge the Mayor has raised goes beyond the idea of choice. He is saying that as an elected official, he no longer cares whether a school is public or private and that the two distinctions are meaningless. That's much different from broadly agreed upon notions of choice. It leads to other gray areas about public funding of public institutions. It leads to questions about governance, equity, and transparency. At "his level," this isn't about individuals. It's about governmental and societal responsibility.

Submitted by Philly Parent and Teacher (not verified) on August 28, 2012 7:10 am

As Ron Whitehorn posted earlier, Nutter/Gleason (and the rest of the SRC) are taking a philosophical / political position that we do not need public institutions to ensure public services ("goods"), as Helen Gym wrote, are equitable and transparent. This is a diminished role for government oversight which, in the history of the United States, often created very inequitable, legally segregated educational systems which denied people equal opportunity - something many people in the US say they value. Civil rights are not protected - or expanded - by the private sector.

For example, would Nutter, Gleason and SRC divide Fairmount Park into "achievement zones" and turn it over to whatever public, private, religious, etc. institution will operate a section? Will they allow different criteria to determine how the section of Fairmount Park is maintained? who is allowed into the section of Fairmount Park? how the maintenance is evaluated? let an organization that is not transparent/public determine which sections of Fairmount Park get additional funding and which do not?

While my analogy of Fairmount Park to public schools in Philadelphia may not be completely relevant, both are public institutions that are funded through tax dollars to provide a public good. Both have public boards and staff which are accountable to the public. How many Philadelphians are willing to relinquish Fairmount Park and give it to the highest bidder, most connected group, person with the best sales pitch, etc.? Are Philadelphians ready to privatize Fairmount Park?

Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2012 11:42 am

I like your analogy. But our mayor sees no problem with abdicating his responsibility to Philadelphia citizens as reflected in his recent cavalier remarks about dismantling public education in Philadelphia.
Helen Gym is kind when she says Nutter misses the meaning of "public" in public education. He is not missing anything. Nutter knows exactly what he is doing. He is just trying to get away with this breach of public trust. And we who are astounded that this is happening need to be vocal and persistent in our efforts to educate the public about this.
Today's Inquirer editorial indicates even our mainstream press can't ignore that current reliance on foundations to bankroll/control our schools threatens the future of public education here in Philly.
Helen, Ron, Tom-104 and all like-minded notebook readers- please keep the pressure on!!!!

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on August 28, 2012 7:21 am

What is best for children is that schools should be run for the best interests of the children and their communities, not for the best interests of those who want to profit off of our schoolchildren. For that to happen public schools must be governed publicly and democratically. Maybe you forgot that we have a Constitution in America and a Sunshine Act which protects the rights of the public and every citizen to "due process of law" and "equal protection of the laws."

That includes the right of every parent, teacher and stakeholder to "participate in the governance of their public schools." I have been saying all along that WE need to think deeply about what is happening here. And by 'We" I mean "We the people."

The public versus private issue is not "esoteric" at all. It has deep meaning. It goes to the heart of the values which we stand for as Americans and Philadelphians. It goes to the very heart of what America is.

Public schools must be run publicly and not as private businesses. It is about the "common good" my friend.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2012 7:51 am

What's in the best interest of the children is for the worst district schools to be taken over by the best charter organizations. There is a tremendous amount of accountability in the Renaissance Initiative.

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2012 8:42 am

Please list how Renaissance charters are or will be held accountable.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on August 28, 2012 8:23 am

No, what is in the best interests of our children is for all of the public schools to be Great public schools. It is also in the best interests of students to have a Great neighborhood school which is adequately funded and serves their learning needs.

Any public school can be made into a Great school with adequate funding, 21st century governance and outstanding leadership.

There are Great public schools in Philadelphia and there are Great public schools in the suburbs which surround Philadelphia. They are all operated publicly and collaboratively.

For instance why do not all public schools in Philadelphia have small class sizes and necessary supports as does Mastery? Why not? Why have all schools which serve the poorest and most needy children not been given adequate resources and good management and good leadership?

That is not to denigrate the Mastery team at all or any charter leader. Actually, I like Scott Gordon and admire his business acumen. I also know some very dedicated true charter school leaders who I admire. But running good schools is not rocket science. It is a collaborative effort.

I visited Mastery Smedley and found it to be a good school with unbelievable resources. I have also visited many outstanding schools in my time.

I would just like to see Mastery, and all charter schools, run as public schools since they are supposed to be, by law, public schools. I assure you Scott understands what I am talking about.

We need to have honest collegial discussions about all of the issues. Our common good depends on it.

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on August 28, 2012 10:15 am

Gordon's "Common Good" and ours are NOT the same. "A different God, a different mountaintop" is a quote from Chariots of Fire. Gordon doesn't give a rat's ass about our common good. He cares about money first, last and only. He's a business person without a conscience, let's be real about that. Nowak is an older version of Gordon too. They never cared about our kids until they saw dollar signs on their backs.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2012 1:17 pm

SDP is too far gone to get those things and you know it. It is broken beyond repair.

"Adequate funding, 21st century governance and outstanding leadership"??? You just described a Renaissance School.

Submitted by Concerned Philadelphian (not verified) on August 28, 2012 2:58 pm

So, 21st century governance is non-transparent, private Board not accountable to the public, no disclosure on budget, non-unionized workforce, at will employment, etc, etc. Renaissance schools are run by Aspira, Universal, Mastery, String Theory, etc. They pay big bucks to CEOs (management) and much smaller salaries to employees. Employees are "at will." Equity is not required - it is optional. "Adequate" funding depends on private donations which means funders have more control than the public. Is this your idea of progress?

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on August 28, 2012 7:09 pm

No, I did not describe a Renaissance school because all Renaissance schools in Philadelphia are governed on an 18th century model of school governance which is feudalistic in nature. The governance structures are autocratic and so is the leadership most often found in those schools.
21st century school governance is democratic and the leadership is collaborative.

For example, how many of the Renaissance schools allow the school community to choose its own leaders. How many of the Renaissance schools have terms of office for their principals and after a term of, say 3 years, allow the school community to decide to retain them or change leadership.

How many of the Renaissance charter schools allow the parents and teachers of those schools to elect their boards of trustees. You see, all other LEA's in Pennsylvania, commonly known as "school districts," allow their residents to elect their school boards. They are the highest achieving school districts.

You see, there is a 21st century model of school governance where the parents and teachers are described as "residents" of the charter school, and they elect their school board democratically.

I submit that is a far superior model of school governance than any Renaissance school or any Renaissance charter school has in Philadelphia. After all, Whose school is it?

Back before the State takeover of our schools, all principals had to go through a site selection process which included the total school community. Paul Vallas and Arlene Ackerman took us backwards ten years in the area of school governance and leadership.

Look at what the last ten years has begotten. The proof surrounds us every day. Imposed governance and imposed leadership is the worst form of leadership.

The original concept of charter schools was that the teachers would be in charge of the learning program. That is a collaborative approach, and democratic governance and democratic leadership is a prerequisite.

It is time for us to come out of the 18th century and into the 21st century. That is the Renaissance that we need.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on September 3, 2012 4:20 pm

Rich,

You ask "how many of the Renaissance schools allow the school community to choose its own leaders. How many of the Renaissance schools have terms of office for their principals and after a term of, say 3 years, allow the school community to decide to retain them or change leadership." How many of the District schools have the same practices? My understanding is that at many District schools, the community has very little input into the principals and vice principals who come to their school. Please correct me if I am wrong. How much does the governance of Renaissance schools differ from traditional District schools?

EGS

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on September 3, 2012 6:55 pm

In the SDP, there is suppose to be a committee that includes school staff, the building rep., community members, parents, and school partners to select the principal. The vast majority of schools this year (and previous years) were appointed by Penny Nixon - there was no committee process. An exception was Central HS - that decision made all the news. Meanwhile, no other school made press for their new principal.

Vice Principals are either picked by the principal or assigned by Penny Nixon. Many of Nixon's friends are now administrators. No surprises here!

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on September 3, 2012 6:53 pm

I do not see any diference in the governance of Renaissance schools than the other school district schools. They are governend bureaucratically and autocratically. Back before the State takeover and the intitiation of the SRC all principals and AP's were supposed to be selected through the "site selction process" for principals. After participating the Leadership in Education Apprentice Design (LEAD) program, we all were placed in what was known as the "Pool of Eligibles." Then we could apply too be chosen as principals and AP's by the local school community.

Sometimes it worked well and sometimes the process became corrupted by gameplayers.

I pride myself on being chosen by the Furness community through the site selection process. Then came Paul Vallas who destroyed everything we had built before and took us twenty years backwards in how schools are governend and led.

We have yet to move into the 21st century....

Submitted by Helen Gym on August 28, 2012 4:00 pm

So a case in point. Vare Middle School gets turned over to Universal as part of the 2002 EMO plan. After 8 years of poor performance it's returned to the District only to be turned over the next year as a Renaissance school to Universal this time as a charter school. This despite the fact that Universal's elementary charters have failed to make AYP, and as Universal testified that they could not afford to pay full rent and utilities for two of its buildings. Additionally, the District hands over the brand new Audenreid High School last year, and Creighton Elementary School this year as part of the "Renaissance" process. Accountability?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2012 7:34 am

So, what is your solution to improving the SDP? Money? That doesn't work either. Take a look at D.C. per student expenditure. I may not disagree with the premise that charters and choice are the silver bullet, but there are some deep rooted issues in Philadelphia that go beyond the control of schools. Those issues compounded by a cynical and browbeaten workforce and an anemic 440 administration suggest the need for a doctor's visit. I hope Dr. Hite has the expertise and will power to heal. This issue way deeper than money.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2012 8:14 am

Agreed, more funds would be great but would not solve the problems that have existed since before it was reduced.

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on August 28, 2012 10:44 am

Agreed, I hope.

POVERTY and RACISM, unabated and unbridled and in Corbett's case, BLATANT are the underlying problems. If you want Peace, work for Justice.

Submitted by Eileen DiFranco (not verified) on August 28, 2012 3:25 pm

You have to be kidding about the role of money in improving education - or anything. 'Money" solved the banking crisis. Money saved the automobile industry. Money pays for infrastructure improvements. But money doesn't help education? Give me a break! I've worked for the SDOP for 22 years. Almost every single year I can recall being told as a faculty that we were going to have to make cuts. Sometimes it was the reading teacher. Other years, it was the librarian. Now many public schools have no librarian, no music teacher, no art teacher, and curtailed nursing service. Suburban schools have money. They spend more per pupil than does the SDOP. The problem has been bad management - at every single level- for a very long time.. Superintendents ride into Dodge on their white horses and think that they are the savior of the schools. In order for a principal to function, he/she has to buy the party line which counts for far more than ability.(Look at Ackerman) District superintendents are chosen the same way. Consequently, very important, key people are appointed for rather spurious reasons. When they do a bad job, no one seems to have the ability or inclination to remove them, even if they cheat. For example, I have not read that any principal who cheated on the PSSA tests has been asked to resign. It took a long time for the schools to fall into this abyss. It's going to take a long time for us to climb out. Anyone who promises a miracle; charter schools, KIPP schools, Mastery, Arlene Ackerman, Michelle Rhee etc. are essentially full of hot air. We need to observe KIPP, Mastery, et all, deal with same almost unsolvable problems we've dealt with over the years before we hand over children and scarce resources.

Submitted by Jessie Ramey (not verified) on August 28, 2012 9:24 am

Way to go, Helen! We here in Pittsburgh are 100% with you. And we will keep working together to restore that fundamental belief in public education as a public good.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2012 3:34 pm

What is in the best interest of the children is to have competition, choice and accountability. In order for that to happen, the back of the PFT must be broken. It is too institutionalized and prefers the status quo, couching every single discussion in its own self interest and not the interests of the kids.

Submitted by Ken Derstine on August 28, 2012 4:46 pm

Thank you for telling us what all of this so called "reform" is all about. No one likes the status quo, least of all teachers who must deal with it everyday. Why you think having underpaid educators with large classes and inadequate supplies is good for the kids is beyond reason.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 29, 2012 10:20 pm

Yes. The cards are face up on the table. No more maneuvering. No more lies. No more deceit. It is the taxpayers and the children versus a union. You are on notice.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 30, 2012 1:11 pm

Notebook posters: Please don't feed the trolls.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on August 30, 2012 6:34 am

That is ridiculous. The PFT is not the axis of evil. They only want "basic fairness." They have always been flexible and gone along with any reasonable reform.

The teachers do not stand in the way of choice. They have offered to start schools with several different governance models but the SRC does not want teacher led schools which is the legislative intent and purpose of the charter school law. The SRC has started no new "true charter schools." The SRC is only supporting the privatized "charter operator" model.

Why?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2012 6:36 pm

Governor Chris Christie is speaking at the GOP Convention tonight. Now there's a guyy with some real horse sense!

Submitted by Desmond (not verified) on June 4, 2014 10:07 am
He is, indeed! I think every one of us would love to know someone like him. He's not only smart and capable, but also trustworty and he really seems like the type of person I'd love to have around!
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