It’s taken me a while to talk about what’s happening in Philadelphia because of the destructive forces threatening public education in our city.
In case you haven’t read the news, Philadelphia’s Chief Recovery Officer – a gas industry executive paid $150K over six months – hired the Boston Consulting Group for a cool $1.4 million to create a “Blueprint for Reform”. The Blueprint sets out a five year course of action which calls for closing one-fourth of Philadelphia’s schools, 40 alone next year (64 total), placing 40% of students into charters, and dividing up the remaining schools into NYC-inspired “achievement networks” run by third party operators under a five year performance contract.
There are of course the standard union-busting threats, the exclusion of parent and community voices, and the consolidation of political interests, large charter operators, and voucher supporters. There is also terrible shock and awe rhetoric to silence Philadelphians into accepting this plan. Our Mayor for example said the school district was on the verge of imminent “collapse” and said the plan was something Philadelphians needed to “grow up and deal with.” Our Chief Recovery Officer just last week stated that schools may not open in September unless Philadelphians funded the plan with $94 million in increased property taxes.
And all of this is happening in a state where a Republican Governor has slashed $1.1 billion from public education in the last two years.
Parents United is up and running and working with clergy and community groups across the city. Last night over 1,000 people gathered for an education dialogue at one of Philadelphia’s most influential churches. Our radio ads with our teachers union will start running this week. We’ve reignited a Protect Public Education Coalition of student organizing groups, labor and others to work on City Council and launch a media campaign. But of course we’re outfunded and fighting an uphill battle against local and national forces that have completely lost their moral compass about the public in public education.
We’re asking for your help to publicize what’s happening to almost 200,000 children in public and charter schools here. Philadelphia is the poster child for the disasters of national education reform – we’re reeling from a state takeover, EMO’s like Edison Schools, privatizing and contracting out, unchecked charter school growth, massive education budget cuts, and constant turnover in leadership. We’re not unlike many cities across the country, but we are quite possibly the largest city to date to propose an effective dissolution of public education in the name of so-called “reform.”
Below is some basic reading. Feel free to share and spread the word.
- The Philadelphia Public School Notebook: City Paper: “Who’s Killing Philly Public Schools?” http://www.citypaper.net/news/2012-05-03-whos-killing-philly-public-schools.html
- Diane Ravitch on what’s happening here : http://dianeravitch.net/2012/04/26/my-visit-to-philadelphia/
- Helen Gym’s response to Philadelphia Chief Recovery Officer Thomas Knudsen, , reprinted in the WashPost Answer Sheet: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/parent-to-schools-chief-you-dont-understand-schools/2012/04/27/gIQA1vLFlT_blog.html
- Local student groups respond to the District’s “plan”: http://home.phillystudentunion.org/pdf/20120425300/PSU-Blog/Philadelphia-Student-Union-Youth-United-for-Change-Respond-to-District-s-Plan.pdf
Helen Gym, Parents United for Public Education