Sounding Off: Educating Bill Green on Local Control

IMG_9233by Ron Whitehorne

In an interview with the Inquirer’s Kristen Graham,  Bill Green, dimisses  the importance of a referendum on abolishing the SRC and returning our schools to local control.   He also perpetuates the misunderstanding that state funding depends on having the SRC in place.

According to Green the SRC will only go away when he and his fellow appointees decide it should. “”The SRC will eliminate itself when our academic and fiscal houses are in order,” he told the Inquirer.   After 13 years of state control our “academic and fiscal house” is on the verge of collapse and the SRC has no remedies beyond begging it’s patrons in Harrisburg and City Hall to pass a regressive tax on smokers that will at best maintain an unacceptable status quo.

Our City, Our Schools
While Green and others dismiss the referendum as inconsequential because it is non binding, the truth of the matter is that they don’t want the citizenry declaring themselves on this question. If, as we expect, a large majority vote yes it will expose the SRC’s lack of legitimacy. It will set the stage for winning genuinely democratic governance in which the people select a school board that is accountable to them.

Green mistakenly assumes the SRC will only go when he says it is ready. However the state legislature, by repealing ACT 46, the state takeover law, would eliminate the SRC, independently of its wishes in the matter. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf is on record as supporting this and might tip the legislature to take this step.

What the 40,000 people who signed the petition for this ballot question want is nothing more than every other Pennsylvania community has. A direct voice in selecting who runs our schools and the means to hold them accountable.

State Control and State Dollars

A common sleight of hand engaged in by Green and SRC supporters is to suggest repeal of ACT 46 will mean less state funding. While in the first few years of state control the District did get some additional state money, under Corbett Philadelphia has been seriously short changed. His administration discarded the funding formula adopted during the Rendell years in which Philadelphia and other high poverty Districts got additional dollars. He also eliminated the Charter Reimbursement line item in the budget which especially hurt Philadelphia.

The road forward in terms of increasing state funding is to build a state wide alliance that can enact a fair funding formula and win new, robust revenue from taxing shale and closing corporate tax loopholes. State control insures neither.

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Council Votes to Place Local Control Measure on Ballot

A large and vocal crowd packed City Council this morning demanding the Council respect the 40,000 people who signed petitions for a non-binding referendum on abolishing the SRC and returning the schools to local control. Last week, citing concerns about the passage of the cigarette tax, the measure was tabled. This week things were different. Following passionate speeches from parents, union and community members, a roll call vote revealed 15 votes for, with only one, Councilman Greenlee, voting against.

Speakers urged the Mayor to sign the bill today in order to get the measure on the November ballot. But indications from the Mayor’s office are he will not do so until after the passage of the cigarette tax. Working Families Organization and PCAPS are urging supporters to call the Mayor to urge him to sign it today.  Phone number is 215) 686-2181.

If the measure is not on the November ballot, the next time would be the May primary next year.

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Local control supporters cheer following passage of the bill placing the question on the ballot.

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Snapshot of Last Week’s Resistance to a Bare Bones Budget

Here are two of last week’s actions, the rally at KCAPA on Thursday and the demonstration at the Governor’s office on Friday, as seen by photographer Harvey Finkle.

 

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Day 5 of Week of Resistance: Outside the Governor’s Office

Several hundred people staged a spirited rally outside the Governor’s office at Broad and Walnut as the culminating event of a week of rallies around the city to dramatize the plight of Philadelphia’s schools. A letter a delegation of parents, students and teachers delivered to the Governor charged him and his allies with creating “a two-tier, separate and unequal system of education in our state”.

A series of speakers including State Senator Vincent Hughes, Sheryl Lee Ralph, ACTION United parent leader Kia Hinton, PFT President Jerry Jordan, teacher Chrissie Delarossi, YUC student Deonni Martinez, and Antoine Little from AFSCME District 33 and Action United delivered the message that we will not accept another year of “bare bones” education for our children. When police refused to allow a delegation with the letter for the Governor into the building people sat down and shut down Broad St. Eventually a small delegation was allowed to deliver the letter.

PCAPS leader and PFT community engagement staffer Evette Jones reminded the crowd that we must continue to be in the streets, confront Corbett at every turn, and work to bring out a huge education vote in November.

Cheryl Lee Ralph and State Senator Vincent Hughes

Cheryl Lee Ralph and State Senator Vincent Hughes

 

Delegation Attempts to Enter Building

Delegation Attempts to Enter Building

Outside the Governor's Office

Outside the Governor’s Office

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Statement of Pennsylvania Working Families on Council’s Failure to put Local Control on the Ballot

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Philadelphians Denied the Chance to Vote for Local Control
Coalition demands vote on education charter amendment
For Immediate Release
Thursday, September 11, 2014
Jesse Bacon, 215-298-3923, jbacon@workingfamilies.org
Today, Philadelphia City Council failed to heed the call of 40,000 Philadelphians who have signed a petition to amend the City Charter to demand local control of the School District of Philadelphia. After a PA Working Families press conference this morning, announcing an expected council vote on a ballot measure demanding the General Assembly abolish the School Reform Commission and return Philadelphia schools to local control, Council tabled the resolution, denying Philadelphians the chance to vote on the first-ever citizen-initiated ballot question in November.
“PFT members have been at the forefront of the effort to give Philadelphia’s citizens the power to determine what happens in our children’s schools,” said Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan. “We surveyed over 3,000 Philadelphia residents and our members collected over 17,000 signatures to get local control on the ballot in November. City Council’s failure to vote on this measure is a disappointing setback, but we will keep fighting to bring our schools under local control.”
“Philadelphians from all walks of life came together to say they want a chance to have a voice in their schools. Council needs to listen to their voices and vote immediately to place the local control charter amendment on the ballot.” said Pat Eiding, President, Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO
“We went to City Council today to say that Harrisburg should fund our schools—and Philadelphia should run them. City Council put up a responsible vote to add local funding by taxing cigarettes, and Harrisburg hasn’t even scheduled a vote to approve that—it’s time for us to get a vote on taking back local control of our schools,” said Kati Sipp, director of Pennsylvania Working Families
“1199C members support a local voice in Philadelphia’s schools. Health care workers know the importance of dignity and decision-making. We want Council to show some courage in securing the health of our children’s education by approving the local control ballot measure.” said Henry Nicholas, President of District 1199C.
PA Working Families has been part of a historic 10-month long campaign gathering 40,000 signatures in favor of letting the entire city vote on local control of Philadelphia schools. Canvassers with PA Working Families, Fight for Philly, SEIU 32BJ, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, PCAPS, and others have been collecting signatures since April, turning in 40,000 signatures to Council in May. The
last step in bringing the question of local control to all the voters of the city is Council approving the ballot question.
“We filed 40,000 signatures months ago. Now, time is of the essence for Council to vote to put local control on the ballot in November,” said Gabe Morgan, PA Director of 32BJ SEIU. “There is no good reason for Council to delay. The future of Philadelphia schools is too important to put on hold.”
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Pennsylvania Working Families is an independent political organization standing up for Pennsylvania’s working class and middle class families.

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Day 4 of the Week Of Resistance: Willard Elementary, Kensington CAPA

This morning teachers and parents rallied at Willard Elementary, After school Youth United for Change, along with parents from nearby Moffat Elementary organized by the Poor People’s Economic and Human Rights Committee, members  of ACTION United, Fight For Philly, PFT, Media Mobilizing Project, and others took to the streets to the beat of the KCAPA drum corps.   The message is loud and clear.   We will not accept “a new normal” that denies our students and families a quality education and leaves them at risk for a jobless future or the school to prison pipeline.

At Willard this morning

At Willard this morning

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Closing down Front St.

Closing down Front St.

Dancing In the Streets at the Berks El Stop

Dancing In the Streets at the Berks El Stop

 

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From Newark to Philadelphia: People Demand Local Control

While students in Newark boycott schools demanding the return of local control, the organizations that have been leading the fight to get a November ballot question on abolishing the School Reform Commission were at City Hall today urging Council to honor the wishes of over 40,000 registered voters who sign petitions. City Council acted to table the vote, effectively ignoring this outpouring of democratic sentiment. We will return to Council next week to demand a vote.

State Senate candidate Art Hayward says state control is a failure

State Senate candidate
Art Hayward says state control is a failure

The youngest advocate for local control

The youngest advocate for local control

Newark students on the march.

Newark students on the march.

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Day 3 of Week of Resistance: CAPA high school

 

Lots of horn blowing in support and high fives from students and staff as people rallied this morning at Broad and Christian.BxKyDB5IAAAa750 BxK2f9zIcAAeZS2 BxK585TIEAAyUfu

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Day 2 of Week of Resistance at Central High School

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PFT President Jerry Jordan, Parent leaders Kendra Brooks and Terry King from ACTION United, Central counselor Tatiana Olmedo, and community activist Sherri Cohen spoke at today’s rally outside Central high school.

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Day One of Week of Resistance at Benjamin Franklin High

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DSC00774As the school doors opened fifty students, parents, teachers and community activists rallied on the sidewalk this morning with the message that we can’t accept another year of bare bones education for our children.

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