by Naveed Ahsan
Teachers, parents, students, and education activists will gather at 4:30 p.m. today outside Gov. Corbett’s Philadelphia office, 200 S. Broad St., as part of the National Day of Action to Reclaim the Promise of Public Education.
Education advocates will stage actions in more than 60 cities across the country, demanding better schools for America’s children. The day of action was planned by an alliance of teachers' unions and community groups to fight back against what they see as an unprecedented attack on the public school system.
Hundreds are expected to convene outside Corbett’s office, including members of the Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools (PCAPS), the Rev. Kevin Johnson of Bright Hope Baptist Church, and Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan.
by Naveed Ahsan
School nurses, parents, and education advocates concerned about budget cuts held a silent candlelight vigil outside of District headquarters before Thursday’s School Reform Commission meeting in memory of 12-year-old Laporshia Massey, who died from an asthma attack on Sept. 25.
by Holly Otterbein for NewsWorks
Before this year's classes began in the Philadelphia School District, parents groups and lawyers from the Public Interest Law Center worried that budget cutbacks were so severe that the state would not be able to meet its legal obligation to provide an adequate education.
A few days before class, they called on fellow parents, students and teachers to file formal complaints with Pennsylvania's education secretary.
Thus far, they said, 260 have been filed. They expect to file an additional 100 complaints by the end of the week.
by Isaac Riddle
The Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools organized a press conference Thursday at City Hall to announce a new campaign that would call on City Council and other elected officials to fully fund District schools.
by Paul Jablow
Sometime in the next couple of weeks, the Bornstein family, of Mill Valley, Calif., will receive a letter asking them to pay almost $2,500 to their public school district through a local foundation.
The notice will come from Kiddo!, whose well-crafted website describes it as “made up of people like you who give generously to provide arts, technology, classroom and library aides, P.E. and innovative teaching programs for children in Mill Valley’s K-8 public schools.”
Michael Bornstein is executive director of Evolve, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that advocates for greater government support of public education, as well as affordable health care and job creation. And although he can afford it, he has mixed feelings about writing the check for his two elementary-school children.
“Philosophically,” he says, “I think this should be paid for with public funds. But on a personal level, it’s needed. Without it, there wouldn’t be art and music. Practically every parent is going to do what’s best for their kid.”
The following open letter, signed by about 600 Philadelphia public school parents and taxpayers, was sent to Pennsylvania state legislators over the weekend and posted on the Facebook page of the organization Imagine a School.
We urge you to VOTE YES on ANY measures for EMERGENCY funding to school districts in Pennsylvania, including the School District of Philadelphia, for FY 2013-14.
We realize that you may not be familiar personally with Philadelphia -- our city, our schools, and our children -- and that you may have been exposed to negative and sensationalized media stories and to commentators who describe our city as a "rat hole" and a "cesspool." The reality is that we work, pay taxes and support our children -- just as families do in your home districts. We have chosen to invest our families' futures in the State of Pennsylvania and in a city that we love, and to send our children to public schools that we know firsthand to be great.
Last Thursday, City Council decided that democracy was inconvenient.
Faced with a deluge of phone calls and an unprecedented outpouring of parent action supporting the progressive Use & Occupancy tax, City Council President Darrell Clarke shut down an expected vote on the tax and instead announced that the city would seek more than $74 million for schools through a tax on cigarettes and improved delinquent-tax collection.
One City Hall insider told me that certain members of City Council were “sh*!%ing bricks” at the number of phone calls they were receiving and were unhappy at the idea of taking a public vote on the Use & Occupancy tax. At least one City Council office said it had received almost 100 phone calls on Wednesday, the day before the vote.
by Charlotte Pope
Now that the School Reform Commission has voted to close 23 schools, the Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools -- a major voice in the school-closings debate -- is regrouping and laying out its next steps.
About 200 people came together Wednesday evening during the group’s general assembly to hear about a new three-part campaign focusing on school funding, community schools, and charter school accountability.
Mayor Nutter has named parent activist Sylvia Simms to replace Lorene Cary on the School Reform Commission.
Simms, who was a District bus attendant for 15 years, said she was "honored," "excited," and "surprised" by the appointment.
In a statement, Nutter said that Simms "will bring an incredibly important and unique perspective to educational advocacy" to the SRC.
by Charlotte Pope
The biggest fear for the young students who came out to the school-closings meeting at Overbrook High School on Tuesday night was clear: Would their safety be at risk?
In a room of about 300 people, some of the youngest voices in the school-closings debate took the floor at the West Philadelphia school to relay their concerns about the hazards of traveling across unknown neighborhoods, bullying, and increased conflicts among students.
"I want my school to stay open, where I feel safe," said Judea Williams, a 3rd grader at Gompers Elementary, one of the schools slated for closure. "I don’t want to have to watch my back all of the time. If I move to Beeber, I will have to be in school with a bunch of 8th and 7th graders, and I don’t want to be around them because they might have fights. The little children that are tiny might get hurt.”