Message to Candidates: Schools Not Prisons

Faith leaders, union members, and advocates for both education and ending mass incarceration spoke and gave witness outside the gubernatorial debate at the WKYW studios in center city.   Christian, Muslim and Jewish clergy sounded the call for a fair funding formula as a critical step in achieveing education justice.  Hakim Ali from Decarcerate PA demanded both candidates call for halting prison construction and ending policies of mass incarceration.   Ron Whitehorne from PCAPS highlighted our five point education platform (see below) and characterized defunding education and locking away inner city youth in prison as “two sides of the same coin.”

Hakiim Ali of Decarcerate PA

Hakiim Ali of Decarcerate PA

Bishop Dwayne Royster from POWER

Bishop Dwayne Royster from POWER

PCAPS Coordinator Ron Whitehorne

PCAPS Coordinator Ron Whitehorne

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Media Mobilizing Project Video On Week of Resistance

 

 

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Schools Not Prisons Action at Gubernatorial Debate

brightlights2Next week the campaign to elect a Governor committed to education continues with a  a Schools, Not Prisons action outside the radio debate between Governor Corbett and challenger Tom Wolf.   We are joining with Decarcerate PA, ACT-Up and others at the KYW studio, 1555 Hamilton Street, at 7:30 AM.   Join on the facebook event page

Governor Corbett at the sametime he slashed a billion dollars from the education budget dramatically increased spending on prison construction.  Tom Wolf, while expressing support for ending the school to prison pipe, needs to be more vocal and concrete about ending the policies of mass incarceration.

Point Four of our five point education election platform reads:

Schools, Not Prisons In Philadelphia and elsewhere we have seen the development of a school-to-prison pipe line that substitutes mass incarceration of poor people of color for investment in quality schools and good jobs. Besides opposing expanded prison construction we need to examine misguided policies in both schools and the criminal justice system that criminalize young people and deny them an opportunity for a decent future.

    • Promote community schools – schools that respond to the needs of communities by incorporating social services , service based learning, and a real voice for parents, students and residents can better meet the needs of our children.
    • Schools need to be encouraged to develop restorative justice programs that teach individual and social responsibility as opposed to harsh, zero tolerance policies.
    • Punitive sentencing, a war on drugs that targets people of color for harsh treatment for minor offences and a policy that, by default, prosecutes all juveniles charged with felonies as adults are examples of criminal justice policies that need to be reexamined.

 

 

 

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PCAPS Statement on Passage of Cigarette Tax

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Cigarette Tax Passes, The Challenge to Fund Our Schools Remains

 

After months of wrangling the legislature finally adopted the controversial cigarette tax which will allow Philadelphia to levy a two dollar a pack tax in the city.   The good news is that, assuming the Governor signs it quickly, the District will be able to avert laying off a thousand school employees, cuts that would have driven class size over forty and rendered the schools, in the words of Dr. Hite, “empty shells.”

 

The bad news is that this new revenue is woefully inadequate and does not even insure last year’s “bare bones” levels.   Mayor Nutter’s characterization of the vote as “a fantastic victory” will be a head scratcher for students, parents and school workers who know what things are really like in our schools.

 

A better assessment came from State Senator Vincent Hughes who said: “We should be very clear that this new stream of local funding does not scratch the surface of what the School District of Philadelphia truly needs to offer real opportunities to all of our students.”

 

Now the challenge is to find more revenue to restore the cuts and move the District forward.   The SRC is still wrongly focused on finding that revenue in the wallets of school employees.   Instead there needs to be a concerted fight for equitable state funding including taxing Marcellus shale, closing corporate loopholes, and accepting federal Medicaid dollars.

 

The first week of school saw protests across the city against another year of bare bones funding. Those demonstrations need to continue. Corbett and his allies cannot be let off the hook because they allowed Philadelphia to tax its smokers. Education voters need to go the polls in November to send the message that we want investment in quality schools for all children.

 

Cigarette Tax Passes, The Challenge to Fund Our Schools Remains

 

After months of wrangling the legislature finally adopted the controversial cigarette tax which will allow Philadelphia to levy a two dollar a pack tax in the city.   The good news is that, assuming the Governor signs it quickly, the District will be able to avert laying off a thousand school employees, cuts that would have driven class size over forty and rendered the schools, in the words of Dr. Hite, “empty shells.”

 

The bad news is that this new revenue is woefully inadequate and does not even insure last year’s “bare bones” levels.   Mayor Nutter’s characterization of the vote as “a fantastic victory” will be a head scratcher for students, parents and school workers who know what things are really like in our schools.

 

A better assessment came from State Senator Vincent Hughes who said: “We should be very clear that this new stream of local funding does not scratch the surface of what the School District of Philadelphia truly needs to offer real opportunities to all of our students.”

 

Now the challenge is to find more revenue to restore the cuts and move the District forward.   The SRC is still wrongly focused on finding that revenue in the wallets of school employees.   Instead there needs to be a concerted fight for equitable state funding including taxing Marcellus shale, closing corporate loopholes, and accepting federal Medicaid dollars.

 

The first week of school saw protests across the city against another year of bare bones funding. Those demonstrations need to continue. Corbett and his allies cannot be let off the hook because they allowed Philadelphia to tax its smokers. Education voters need to go the polls in November to send the message that we want investment in quality schools for all children.

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We Need Healthy School Buildings – Sign the Petition

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The existence of dangerous hazards in schools, like mold, lead, asbestos, insect infestation and buildings that are either too hot or too cold pose a serious threat to the welfare of our students.

Budget problems and years of deferred maintenance are part of the problem here. But rather than face up to it, the District has attempted to sweep the issue under the rug and is thwarting a federally funded effort to study these problems and come up with a plan for dealing with them.

PHILAPOSH, a union supported group that campaigns for better health and safety conditions on the job, has launched a petition demanding the the District cooperate with this study as a first step toward addressing this serious issue. The petition can be downloaded from our tools and resources page here

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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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