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City Council passes resolution to support moratorium on school closings

by David Limm on Jan 24 2013 Posted in Latest news

City Council has passed a resolution in support of placing a moratorium on school closings, the Inquirer 's Troy Graham is reporting. The non-binding resolution was passed 14 to 2, with Councilmembers Bill Green and Maria Quiñones-Sanchez voting against. 

 

 

Update (2:14 p.m.): The Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools (PCAPS) has released a statement, which has been reproduced below.

PCAPS’ Statement Praising City Council’s Call For a Moratorium on School Closings

The Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools (PCAPS) applauds City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell and her colleagues for supporting today’s resolution calling for a moratorium on school closings.

Superintendent Hite and his team have embarked on a well-intentioned but premature effort to justify the drastic action of shuttering 37 schools without embarking on a comprehensive community impact study.  Furthermore, research has shown that school closures often fail to bring about projected revenue savings and do not help improve student achievement in the long run.

Given these realities, the most prudent step moving forward is to halt all school closings and instead collaborate with public officials, non-profits, hospitals, universities, the business community and others to examine the community impact of these closings and seek out innovative alternatives that will truly enrich the lives of Philadelphia students and their families.

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Comments (24)

Submitted by reformer (not verified) on Thu, 01/24/2013 - 15:14.

pandering will do nothing. just like the resolution.

Submitted by Mark (not verified) on Thu, 01/24/2013 - 15:40.

Huh? What do you mean?

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on Thu, 01/24/2013 - 18:06.

"Pandering" is an appropriate term used by reformer - look it up at urbandictionary.com

Submitted by Mark (not verified) on Thu, 01/24/2013 - 15:40.

Huh? What do you mean?

Submitted by Jack (not verified) on Thu, 01/24/2013 - 15:56.

It is a shame that it took such a radical plan for parents and others to come together torally for the future of public education in Philadelphia. Better late to the party than never however.
Hey reformer: Do you really think this plan is a reform plan? Do you really think there will be $28M in savings next school year? This plan is similiar to the plan that the Archdiocese originally put forward to close schools. A plan lacking the on the ground knowledge of the each school community and put together with no input from anyone but insiders. That plan was amended as this one should be.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 01/24/2013 - 18:36.

I believe the configuration may change, but there will be closures. the validity of the numbers remains to be seen regarding projected savings. I would hope that the district didn't just take the bcg numbers without confirmation. size adjustments are required to make the district more in line with its fiscal reality. it is a necessary step in school reform. I do think they made some mistakes and I agree they may come from not knowing the territory. robeson is a good school, but too small to be sustainable. It needs to be around 500 to be viable. I can't see how combining it with sayre will be a good thing. the real issue is that it will go a lot better if the moratorium folks would get the fact that this train has left the station. there will be more. you would help yourselves and more importantly the children if you become engaged in the planning. your good ideas should be welcomed. but the current approach is not working and isn't likely to work. non binding resolutions and yapping from butkovitz won't change much. instead of attempting to resuscitate the old school district you should participate in building the new one. this is an opportunity you mustn't squander.

Submitted by Ron Whitehorne on Thu, 01/24/2013 - 17:16.

City Council, unlike the unelected SRC, cannot simply ignore the voices of thousands of Philadelphia citizens who are opposed to closing schools and the current austerity plan for those that remain open.   We "protesters" have no illusions that this settles the issue, but we definitely see this as an important victory.

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on Thu, 01/24/2013 - 17:43.

You are right. City Council has a huge dog in this situation so they need to pay attention to the people. The SRC has become like Fox News, the Party Channel which has no interest in regular folks' issues and concerns. Bill Green Sr. would turn over in his grave for Jr.'s coldblooded behavior. Since the closings would save no real money, the SRC has no legitimate agenda, legitimate being the operative word but who doesn't already know that?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 01/26/2013 - 05:59.

Council can however ignore fiscal reality. Which is why the SRC exists in the first place.

Faced with an actual choice, Council will pick their corrupt friends and interest groups over funding schools any day of the week.

If council really wanted to do something, they would collect some of the $500mm in property taxes that are long-term delinquent. Or auction some of the 14,000 abandoned blight properties that the city owns that produce no tax revenue for schools.

But City council prefers to keep their priveleges to exempt constituents from paying any taxes, to horde properties until they can be given to favored developers.

Submitted by tom-104 on Sat, 01/26/2013 - 09:11.

I agree with everything you say, except local corruption is why the SRC exists. Do you really believe Harrisburg is not corrupt? We just had an Education Secretary doctor state test scores to make charters appear better than the actual test results showed.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 01/26/2013 - 10:00.

Harrisburg has its own issues and interest groups. Cyber charters for example seem like something of a scam especially funding them like regular schools.

I was just saying that the SRC exists because Philadelphia's politicians ran the district into insolvency 12 years ago.

Council treated the schools as just another body for their parasitic supporters to latch onto. Remember they had the IBEW earning something like $75 an hour to move computers around while the district was going bankrupt. God forbid a non-union member plugged in a computer. Admin was a massively overstaffed patronage op.

Council has 0 interest in actually running schools for the benefit of kids or with the goal of delivering a quality education. Council is generally not smart people who want to make government work well. They are (with few exceptions) machine politicking thugs and grifters looking for how to enrich their friends and contributors to maximize their own powerbase. Their expertise is figuring out different ways to take $.10 from 10 people who won't notice and give a $1 to someone who kicks back campaign support.

Just this summer this same council threatened to withold funding unless the district gave the SEIU what it wanted. Keeping money flowing to unproductive politically connected "workers" and scam contractors is councils priority- they were pefectly willing to starve schools to keep their $80k a year bus driver friends in the purple shirts happy.

Kids don't vote after all. And unfortunately most of their parents are too dumb to see through councils posturing and pandering.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on Thu, 01/24/2013 - 18:03.

It appears there are only two truly responsible members of City Council. Were they the only ones who paid attention in school? They can see that another year of inaction = another year of debt service and more borrowing = more diminished resources or higher taxes.

There is not much difference in being managed by a nonprofit, and asking one to rescue you. Except that in the second case, you get a handout, and can continue wasteful spending - that apparently is o.k. Our nonprofits have the desire and the resources to do this?

A year for you protestors to go knocking on their doors. Who has the plan?

Well, I guess we'll know who to blame when our nurses get cut again - not Mr. Greene or Ms. Sanchez, nor the nonprofits, nor the residents of Philly who have had 3 tax raises so far... yes we can thank you protestors.

Submitted by reformer (not verified) on Thu, 01/24/2013 - 20:49.

you hit the nail on the head. this strategy of making threats, hurling insults, and asking for delays is beyond irresponsible. dr. hite is correct about this. we have no choice.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 01/24/2013 - 21:24.

You must be watching the wrestling channel. I saw no threats and hurling insults. If anything people are being too polite!

We had a choice for two wars which have brought nothing but misery. We had a choice for a military buildup that makes the our military budget larger than of the rest of the world combined. We had a choice in 2008 when $700 billion of taxpayers dollars was given to bail out banks and hedge funds who had lost at the casino that they had turned the U.S. economy into.

None of these children and school employees had anything to do with it, but you think there is no choice but to make them pay.

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on Thu, 01/24/2013 - 23:33.

Excellent post. Right on the money !!

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on Fri, 01/25/2013 - 03:24.

Wow, so whose fault was it that there were 44,300 less school age children living in Philadelphia in 2010 versus 2000? (Recall, Governor Corbett is only on his first term). Must have been the Federal government making the choice to make the children pay.

Indeed, it seems the Federal government in the past 12 years has been overly generous in giving Title I grant money to Philadelphia schools for their poor children. It most definitely is their fault for making the wrong choice there.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on Fri, 01/25/2013 - 03:01.

City Council with the exception of Mr. Greene and Ms. Sanchez are particularly frustrating. Instead of a moratorium, they need to be calling for RFPs, request for proposals.

Who best could address the disparity in job growth between the City and the surrounding counties? Might this have stemmed the massive exodus of families with children ages 5 to 14 in 10 years? Perhaps not, because safety in an urban setting might have been the driver, but well paying jobs might have encouraged better investment in neighborhoods at least.

It is worth looking at Cincinnati's solution (to falling enrollment) as PCAPS suggests. The situation is a "little" different. Taxpayer money, $1 billion in 10 years was used to refurbish facilities first, before asking that nonprofits (including universities) take up co-residence. From there the nonprofits were expected to carry all the operating and maintenance costs. I do not find that assumption very much different than what BCG must have used to make their "cost saving" proposal.

In these RFPs that Council should be calling for, a prospective cohabitant must be able to assume the maintenance and operating costs of the building(s). The PSD, could look to "rightsize" by using technology to enable sharing of administrators and teachers. Support personnel would still be much needed. Priority and support (from both the City and PSD (remember the substantial VocTech grant they just received)) could be offered to RFPs that could establish a quality VocTech program, that could provide retraining to displaced workers, and business training to the community. The age group of 15 to 19 did increase in numbers in the past 10 years. VocTech Training is in much demand both in the City and surrounding counties and would likely attract greater/continued grant funding.

In addition to RFPs, why is Council not taking suggestions from the communities they represent as to what they most would like to see alongside/in the same location, as their schools?

A moratorium is not what is needed. Immediate action is, whether by the PSD or Council or better, both.

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on Fri, 01/25/2013 - 16:57.

A moratorium is an immediate action. Old time Phillies Manager Gene Mauch said, "Sometimes you add by subtracting." A moratorium would give more time to evaluate all options, not just the ones the SRC wants to bullrush into action, especially considering that even their own bean counters admit, very little real money will be saved by closing all those school buildings.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on Fri, 01/25/2013 - 18:40.

Joe I know your heart is in the right place, but a moratorium is a "suspension of action/period of delay". If you don't believe me, look it up.

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on Fri, 01/25/2013 - 19:54.

Let's not bring my heart, such as it is, into this and I won't make my more Seinfeld references. If the goal is saving money and closing buildings won't really do that, what's the rush and more to the point, what's the point?
Democracy itself is at stake when a 2 or even 3 tiered educational system comes to fruition. The playing field is uneven now but the goal is to educate all the kids. The "Reformers" will end that sure as God made green apples and that reality better scare everybody who loves this country. When a segment of our population is BY DESIGN, doomed to menial jobs at best, and even streamlined into the prison system, we all need to be ashamed of what we've allowed to happen. Educating the poor is much harder and yes, far more costly, than educating the middle class and above but that's what has to be done in a country that professes equality for all.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on Sat, 01/26/2013 - 04:48.

Joe, would you honestly operate a school at 1/3 capacity, especially if the outcome had not improved during the years when class size was 10 versus when it was 18 to 20? In other words, more money did not bring a better outcome?

You can't convince me that correcting waste, would not bring savings, even with increased transportation costs at the high school level. Safety, having to do with "turf" is a legitimate issue. It however is one that should be addressed at its root neighborhood origin by City social services, and police. Here the City could rightfully bear the extra cost.

There are poor at Central H.S. and they cost only $5,500 per child to educate:
For the poor who do not value education, the greater spending needs to be done where it is needed, which would be the social services. Is it not a crime to waste money meant to help the poor, in the name of the poor?

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on Fri, 01/25/2013 - 09:59.

Sorry for the late night grammar - "RFPs" should be "proposals" in many of the sentences.

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on Sat, 01/26/2013 - 09:37.

Teaching in the ghetto is all about social services. Teachers serve as parents all day, every day. Is it fair? no. It is reality though and every teacher does it. The Poverty Cycle is very alive and healthy and it's a slippery slope when you go down the road of "The poor who don't value education" and thinking of that ilk. In the 1920s, Hitler used to talk about, "Those Jews who don't care about Germany" and we all know how that turned out. Just sayin !!

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