by Mark McHugh
Members of the Philadelphia Student Union and the faith-based organizing group POWER conducted a boisterous rally in front of Gov. Corbett’s Philadelphia headquarters on Friday afternoon.
Several hundred protesters were there to object to the “doomsday” budget that the School Reform Commission recently enacted due to insufficient revenue. They marched from LOVE Park, past City Hall, to Corbett's office at 200 S. Broad St.
by Sonia Giebel
Days after the School Reform Commission approved its “doomsday” budget, about 150 people conducted a noisy protest Wednesday outside District headquarters against two of the budget's consequences: the removal of noontime aides from lunchrooms and less fresh food for students.
The UNITE HERE rally brought together the aides -- also called student safety staff -- who monitor trouble-prone hallways and lunchrooms, with students, teachers, cafeteria workers, and others. They chanted slogans like “break bread, not schools” and banged pots and pans.
“What parent wants their kid eating on a dirty table ... or coming home with a busted nose?” said Migdalia Lopez, a noontime aide at Bodine High School. The cafeteria will not be a safe environment, she said.
After listening to hours of impassioned testimony and not a few lectures from students and others that they were shirking their responsibility, the School Reform Commission adopted a stripped-down budget by a vote of 4-1 Thursday night that its own members called unconstitutional and inadequate.
The $2.39 billion operating budget eliminates nearly everything from schools except a principal and a minimal number of classroom teachers. Counselors, librarians, sports, secretaries, support staff, music and art? All gone.
Two icons of the progressive education movement spoke in Philadelphia on Wednesday night to decry standardized testing and urge that a “justice-oriented framework” drive school reform instead.
“Test score gaps are used to label schools as failures without providing resources or strategies to eliminate the gap,” said Stan Karp of Rethinking Schools, an education journal and publisher.
Youth United for Change will hold its 22nd annual award ceremony and reception on Tuesday, May 7. The theme for this year’s event is “Defending Public Education.” American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten will be the keynote speaker.
As a union leader, Weingarten has advocated for partnerships with parents and students around reforms that improve public school education nationwide. In March, she joined hundreds of teachers, students, parents, and other public school advocates outside District headquarters in Philadelphia to protest mass school closings. She later was arrested, along with 18 other protesters, after an organized attempt to block School Reform Commission members from entering a meeting to vote on which schools would be shuttered.
by Bill Hangley Jr.
Day two of City Council’s education hearings was a long string of bleak predictions and passionate calls for funding from public school supporters faced with the prospect of what one parent called “trying to do the impossible with nothing.”
Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell called the day’s testimony “disheartening,” but gave little indication that she and her colleagues are eager to move on meeting the Philadelphia School District’s request for $60 million in additional funding.
Parents United for Public Education has won its state Right To Know request to gain public access to the list of 60 schools identified by the Boston Consulting Group for closure and to the firm’s criteria for school closings -- a request for information that the District has consistently denied to the public.
Last spring, the Boston Consulting Group came under intense criticism for a plan that promoted school closings, massive charter expansion, and privatization of key functions within the District, such as transportation. Under its multimillion-dollar contract with the William Penn Foundation, BCG agreed to provide the foundation a number of “contract deliverables,” one of which was identifying 60 schools for closure. The “BCG list” was referred to by former Chief Recovery Officer Thomas Knudsen in public statements, but District officials had refused to release the list, stating that it was an internal document and therefore protected from public review.
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.
This is a reprint of an article that originally appeared on Parents United for Public Education's website.
by Tomika Anglin
On Dec. 13, 2012, the School District of Philadelphia recommended 37 schools for closure. There were impassioned pleas and hard-worked proposals. There were well-written reports of community input. There was anger. There were tears. There were rallies, chants and marches. There was organization, mobilization and solidarity. And then the School Reform Commission voted to close 23 schools. They voted against our children. Against their safety. Against their education. Against their future. So what do we do now as parents and a concerned community? How do we impact this bureaucracy that is called the School District of Philadelphia? How do we impede this assault on our children’s future?
Sarah Peterson, communications and development associate for YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School, is not a native of Philadelphia, but the Los Angeles transplant says she has fallen in love with the city.
Part of the reason is a summer internship she served at the Notebook.