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.
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.
Like a broken record, for over two years the School Reform Commission has sounded the call for "shared sacrifice." The phrase provided the frame for its decision to break the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers' contract and impose what amounts to a huge wage cut. Their message has been: Everyone else has stepped up, and now teachers must do so.
But not everyone else has stepped up. Banks, corporations, and the mega-nonprofits in this city have not made sacrifices, nor has this body asked them to.
Let me be specific.
Last month, Superintendent William Hite said he would consider opening the schools fully staffed and run them until the money runs out rather than institute a new round of layoffs. The School Reform Commission, in a rare display of independence and political courage, signaled it would support him.
After the budget debacle in Harrisburg, in which the governor and his supporters failed to raise substantial new revenue, it’s time for Hite, the SRC, and public education advocates to take that step.
For years, the mantra from those who think charter schools are the answer to what ails Philadelphia's schools has been “people are voting with their feet,” citing the mushrooming numbers of families who have transferred out of traditional public schools in favor of charters.
But over recent weeks, the people voted with ballots and they voted decisively against turning over their schools, Steel Elementary in Nicetown and Muñoz-Marín Elementary in Kensington, to charter school management companies.