Ron Whitehorne has been a political activist in Philadelphia for four and a half decades with roots in the civil rights, anti-war and labor movements. His involvement with education dates back to the sixties when he helped organize an alternative high school, a high school student union and liberation schools that sought to bring an anti-racist perspective to suburban white students. Later as a community activist in the Kensington area he was involved in education organizing, including an attempt to build a community-union coalition. Becoming a teacher in the 1980s, he was a long time building rep, helped forge an partnership with parents, school staff and the community to build a new Julia de Burgos school, and co chaired the PFT's Community Outreach Committee. In this role he participated in effots to further dialogue and create common ground between the unions and the community
As a classroom teacher Whitehorne was selected as Teacher of the Year for the Edison Cluster in 1998. As a founding Board member of Youth United for Change a member of the Notebook's editorial and leadership board, abd a supporter of the Teacher Action Group, remains active since retiring from teaching.
Whitehorne is married to Patty Eakin, a long time leader in nursing unionism.
As Mayor Nutter prepares to depart City Hall in January, his legacy in education is facing some scrutiny. He gets good marks for his focus on raising graduation rates and support for more funding. But his agenda also included closing neighborhood public schools and the expansion of charter schools (and to a lesser extent, magnet schools), policies that drew strong opposition.
Mayor-elect Jim Kenney is on record as favoring an education agenda that includes community schools. Over the length of his term, he would like to create 25 of these schools, neighborhood public schools that build community partnerships and bring under one roof the social services and supports that students and their families need.
Educating for Insurgency, by Jay Gillen, makes the case that the transformation of our schools depends on recognizing the critical role of young people in high-poverty schools.
Gillen is a Baltimore math teacher who helped organize the Baltimore Algebra Project, a student-run collective that provides tutoring services and engages in political advocacy. The project was inspired by and draws on the legacy of the iconic Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee leaders Bob Moses and Ella Baker.
Gillen’s book centers on a discussion of what he calls "schools of poverty" and the efforts to reform them. He compares the organization and norms of the plantation during slavery with today’s schools.
Once again the School District is moving ahead with a school closure plan that excludes the community and fails to look at other options.
This time it’s Kensington Urban Education Academy, which the District wants to close and merge with Kensington International Business, citing low enrollment and poor academic performance. Both high schools are housed in the old Kensington High School building.
In spite of opposition from York City’s elected school board, York's school district is on the verge of being turned over lock, stock, and barrel to a for-profit charter operator with ties to Florida Republicans Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Jeb Bush.
The York City School District has been under state control since 2012, when Gov. Corbett's administration put the district in receivership, appointing David Meckley, a local businessman, as chief recovery officer. Meckley has pressed an austerity program, which includes cutbacks to school budgets, teacher layoffs, and union concessions.
York's school board drew the line at his proposal to privatize the entire district. The board tabled this measure, citing a lack of evidence that the proposed charter operator, Charter Schools U.S.A., would do better than the existing administration. The Pennsylvania Department of Education has gone to court to compel the local school board to implement the charter takeover. A decision is expected this week.
Tom Wolf won the governor’s race because he made this election about education and he aggressively challenged Tom Corbett’s budget austerity narrative. Wolf put forward bold proposals for funding schools, including taxing shale, closing corporate loopholes, and creating a progressive state income tax.
A landslide vote, running against a strong Republican tide nationally and in local legislative races, allows him to claim a mandate for moving ahead on this agenda.