PCAPS Statement on Announcement of Schools Opening with Further Cuts

Today, Philadelphia School District Superintendent Hite announced further cuts to Philadelphia schools, with the possibility of mass layoffs to come if further funding does not come through in the fall.

Philadelphia schools are in dire condition, and children, teachers, parents, staff, and the city can’t sustain further reductions in programs and services. We can’t continue with funding equal to last year, when a severe shortage in nurses, staff, counselors, teachers, supplies, and programs forced students and parents to suffer without vital support and programs. Put simply, the school system has been in a crisis that is only continuing.

The chief cause of the Philadelphia School District’s broken promise to properly educate children is brutal cuts from Governor Corbett and the Republican-controlled state General Assembly. Corbett cut $1 billion from schools statewide and $272 million from Philadelphia alone. Parents, teachers, staff, nurses, and activists from a broad coalition across the state have been continually advocating and agitating for new money for Pennsylvania schools since the governor’s first budget. Philadelphia schools have attracted national attention for school closings and last year’s “doomsday budget.” The entire city had to worry if tragic student deaths were avoidable. In July, PCAPS sat in at the Capitol and outside the governor’s office as waves of protesters from across the state joined us to demand new funding for Pennsylvania education. Despite all this, the governor refused to find any new funding sources for schools. The GOP-controlled legislature failed to pass a desperate, last-minute bill to allow Philadelphia to tax cigarette sales in the city in order to make up only a portion of this year’s budget deficit.

We need robust new investment in schools based on new revenue. Another year of bare bones services that leave our students at risk and falling further and further behind is not acceptable.

Our schools are being starved by those who favor privatization, neutralizing the power of unions, and shifting wealth from working people to corporations and the rich. PCAPS has continued to call for simple, fair solutions to raise funding for schools in Philadelphia and across the state:

A 5% extraction tax on Marcellus Shale. Pennsylvania currently offers energy companies the most generous deal of any of the energy producing states. The people of the state should be sharing in the millions of dollars made from our natural resources.

Closing or tightening corporate tax loopholes that enable large corporations to avoid paying their fair share.

Freezing the phase out of business taxes. While revenue from income and sales taxes is up, it is down from taxes that corporations pay. Now is not the time to continue tax breaks for huge, profitable corporations.

Expand Medicaid. Accepting federal Medicaid dollars will expand health care for low income Pennsylvanians and free up millions of state dollars for education.

A financial fix for Philadelphia schools also requires restoring the charter school reimbursement line item in the budget, allowing the District to cap charter school enrollment, and reforming how charter schools are funded.

The Governor and Republican-controlled legislature need to take responsibility for funding education in Pennsylvania now rather than wait for the budget to blow up later in the year.

We will continue to be in the streets making clear that no justice means no peace. The political leadership of this state and their corporate sponsors suffer from moral paralysis. They have made it clear by their actions that they are willing to write off poor and working class children who are disproportionately children of color. Appeals to reason and conscience have little impact. We must, in the best traditions of peaceful American democracy and protest, up the costs of their refusal. We must do so in the streets, and this November we must use the ballot to elect candidates prepared to stand with us in this fight.

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Full House at West Philly Town Meeting on Local Control of Schools

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Panel discusses why returning control of our schools to the people of Philadelphia is needed

Over a hundred people gathered last night at Monumental Baptist Church to press for ending the 13 year old failed experiment with the School Reform Commission and return our schools to local control. For PCAPS this demand is part of a broader campaign to elect a Governor and legislators who are committed to quality education for all children.

A panel of parent Kia Hinton from ACTION United, Maureen O’Driscoll, Kindergarten teacher at JB Kelly and two student members of BPSOS, Kenneth Lac and Cassandra Manotham, from Central and Girls High talked about what state control of schools has mean’t for them. All three speakers hit on the impact of the failure of the state to fund our schools. The other theme was the SRC denys all of us a democratic voice in determining what happens in our schools. Rev. Dr. Matsen, the pastor of Monumental Baptist also spoke, focusing on the historic and continuing inequality between inner city schools and the affluent suburbs. State Representative James Roebuck opened the meeting with a strong pledge of support for the local control campaign.

Besides hearing from the speakers, town hall participants, phoned, tweeted, wrote postcards and emails to City Council and the Mayor calling for allowing the ballot question on returning our schools to local control to go forward. Working Families Organization Director Kati Sipp told the audience that in spite of 40,000 signatures on petitions to get this question before the voters, Council is dragging its feet. Approval from Council and the Mayor is needed in September.

The town meeting also observed a moment of silence for Michael Brown and victims of police brutality. PCAPS coordinator Ron Whitehorne noted that “the same mindset and system that say’s it’s ok to deny black children a decent education is at work when young, unarmed black men are beaten and shot.”

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PCAPS Statement on School Redesign Initiative

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For years many of us have called for teacher led, community based approaches to improving schools as opposed to school “turnaround” policies that arbitrarily replace school staff and turn schools over to charters or outside managers.

In that spirit we welcome the School Redesign Initiative as a District effort to respond positively to these concerns. The SRI does open a window for educators, parents, and community partners to develop a plan for their own school. Unlike other turnaround initiatives promoted by the District, the reconstitution of staff is not required. PCAPS has been exploring how to move forward with a strategy of developing community schools and we see this initiative as a possible avenue for that effort.

However the SRI, in its present form, has serious flaws. Many advocates are rightfully concerned that SRI will end up being a fig leaf for more destabilizing churn and further privatization.

While the District did do some community engagement and incorporates some of the points advocates raised, this should have been the beginning rather than the end of the process. Substantive discussions about the Initiative prior to its release to try to forge more unity should have occurred. Moreover, the timelines are not realistic, particularly if the idea is to get proposals from teachers and community partners. Minimally the deadline for letters of intent should be extended into mid October to allow school communities a chance to convene and weigh applying.

The following are critical problems and issues that need to be addressed if the SRI is to realize its potential.

• The SRI needs to focus on encouraging and supporting teachers and community partners at their school to be the agents in the process. Instead the SRI allows for outside groups with minimal connection to the targeted school an equal footing.

• Rather than just allowing for the retention of staff, the SRI should give priority to proposals that focus on keeping and engaging existing staff while allowing those who don’t buy in to transfer without penalty.

• The design principles appear to favor the same test driven methods for evaluating student growth and teacher effectiveness. No allowance is made for more holistic approaches.

• Additional funding, should be an option for SRI proposals, given that it is included for Renaissance Charters. The potential for SRI is bound up with the continued fight for full funding for the District.

• Finally who will decide which proposals are accepted and how will those people be selected? A transparent process that insures that strong community voices are included is needed.

We hope, rather than forging ahead with a flawed proposal, the District will engage with teachers, parents and community partners to correct these problems and strengthen the positive elements of the School Redesign Initiative.

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Q and A on Local Control of Schools

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Two Education Voter Pledge Canvases Next Week!

Next week PCAPS will renew it’s campaign to get registered voters to sign an election pledge to vote for a Governor and other candidates this Fall who will stand up for full and fair funding, charter school accountability, ending the school to prison pipe line and returning our schools to local control. We wil also be building support for a big vote in November on the non binding referendum to abolish the SRC.

The first canvas will be on Monday, August 11th, at Serenity House
1209 W Lehigh Ave from 4:00pm to 7:00pm There will be a short training for volunteers and Pizza will be provided. The Maypop Collective for Climate and Economic Justice is co-sponsoring the canvas.

Then on Wednesday there will be another canvas in the Norris Square area hosted by Youth United for Change. A training will be held at the YUC office at 4:00. Besides the voter pledge we will be distributing a leaflet on the local control question and talking to voters about calling Council to make sure it goes on the ballot in November.

As the events of this turbulent budget season drive home, we need a change of direction in Harrisburg. Mobilzing a big education vote in Philadelphia and electing a Governor who supports our platform is the key to making it happen.Untitled 3

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Town Hall Meeting on Local Control of Schools

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Forty Thousand Philadelphia registered voters signed a petition this Spring to put the question of returning our schools to local control and abolishing the School Reform Commission on the ballot in the form of a non-binding referendum. But before this can happen City Council and the Mayor have to approve. Come to the town meeting to find out how returning our schools to local control can improve education and how we can bring pressure on our elected officials to let the people vote on this important question.

TOWN MEETING ON LOCAL CONTROL OF OUR SCHOOLS

THURSDAY, AUGUST 14TH 6:30 P.M.

MONUMENTAL BAPTIST CHURCH

4948 LOCUST ST.

We are urging people to call and tweet Council. For more information go here.

We also are asking people to sign a pledge to support abolishing the SRC and returning the schools to local control. A pdf. is available here.

Sponsored by Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools and the Pennsylvania Working Families Organization.

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Fight Back Rally at Corbett Office

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Almost two hundred people gathered in the rain on short notice to express outrage at Corbett and his allies in the legislature scuttling the cigarette tax, a move that will mean massive lay offs, spiralling class size and may mean schools will not be able to open.

Speakers noted that even with the cigarette tax, which represents no new state money, our schools remain unable to deliver a quality education. More revenue including a severance tax on Marcellus shale, closing corporate loopholes, freezing the phase out of business taxes and Medicaid expansion, is what’s needed.

The defeat of Corbett in November and building strong alliances for progressive funding was another focus of the rally.

A flash dance performance by the members of Youth United For Change electrified the crowd. Another high point was the arrival of a large contingent of UNITE Here members and supporters who marched from a picket line at the Radison Hotel against contracting out the jobs of union workers to join up the schools action. This is the kind of solidarity we need in this city.

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Fight Back Against Corbett’s Latest Attack

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Tell Comcast to Pay It’s Fair Share!

This video from Media Mobilizing Project features scenes from the June PCAPS Harrisburg Sit-In demanding full funding for Pennsylvania’s schools:

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PCAPS Statement on Budget Impasse

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