PCAPS City Election Platform: The Schools Our Children and Families Need

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For too long our city’s political leadership has settled for a two tier school system that consigns the majority of school children, most of whom are from poor families of color, to understaffed schools that lack the basic resources essential to a decent education. This situation is not inevitable but the result of political choices made by those we have elected. There is a different way.

Support Sustainable Community Schools

Sustainable Community Schools are neighborhood public schools that provide wrap around services for students and their families, engaging curriculum, positive behavior supports, and involvement of parents and the community in school decision making. We call for 10% of Philadelphia schools to become sustainable community schools over the next four years and for federal school improvement grants to be used exclusively for that purpose.

A Moratorium on Charter School Expansion

As a first step toward genuine accountability charter schools must be regulated to insure that taxpayer dollars are spent wisely and for the purpose of education. Legislation that creates meaningful audits and transparency is necessary. Moreover charter growth creates new budget challenges in the form of stranded costs that the District can ill afford. Finally charter school policy has created an uneven playing field in which traditional public schools are disadvantaged.

Full and Fair Funding

Robust revenue and a fair funding formula from the state are essential to improving our schools, but that doesn’t mean the City can’t do more. We call for reforming the use and occupancy tax to eliminate the tax windfall large commercial interests received with the implementation of the Actual Value Initiative, elimination of tax abatements on the schools portion of the property tax, and for PILOTS for mega non-profits. We call on our city’s most powerful corporation, Comcast, to pay its fair share to fund public schools as a condition of its new franchise agreement with the city

Equal Education Means Fighting For Racial and Economic Justice

The relationship between poverty and education outcomes requires that genuine education reform is linked with the fight for economic fairness. We call for a fifteen dollar minimum wage and support for the right of all workers to organize themselves in unions. We also call for ending the school to prison pipeline, short hand for zero tolerance discipline policies, racial profiling and a racially discriminatory criminal justice system that penalize young people of color.

Local Control of Schools

State control has failed to improve our schools and violates basic democratic principles. Philadelphians must have role in selecting who should govern our schools like citizens in virtually every other community in the state. ACT 46, the state control act, must be repealed and a democratic form of governance instituted in our city.

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MLK Day Call To Action

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The following document was adopted by the MLK DARE Coaltion.

CALL TO CONSCIENCE, COMMITMENT AND ACTION IN THE CELEBRATION OF MARTIN LUTHER KING JR

We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there “is” such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action (Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence, 4 April 1967).

The Fierce Urgency of Now

There comes a time when women, men, youth and children, people of all races, religions, ideological and moral commitments must act. On this day when Martin Luther King Jr is celebrated we call on Philadelphians in the thousands to unite in action to transform the rapidly deteriorating conditions of life of our people. Martin Luther King was a man of action in the causes of human rights, civil rights, labor rights and world peace. He believed that ordinary people, –working people, the poor, women and the racially oppressed– were, in the end, the authors of justice. And if our nation and city are to be saved we must recognize what King called “the fierce urgency of now” and that “time waits for no one.”

Philadelphia is more divided along race, class and gender lines than at any time in recent memory. We are two cities, one of privilege and wealth, the other of poverty, police brutality, low and poverty wages, collapsed schools and collapsing neighborhoods. Of America’s ten largest cities we are the poorest. Close to 70% of our citizens live in or very near poverty. Our children suffer the most and far too many are wrapped in lives of misery and hopelessness. Our streets are littered with the homeless, hungry and destitute.

As a nation we spend more on prisons, police, and the military than on schools, eliminating poverty, providing jobs with living wages and homes. As a nation too many value our dogs over the lives of Black young people. We are witness to the grotesque spectacle of Black and brown people murdered in our streets by police, while many of our fellow citizens look the other way, and those who run the court system find murderers in blue innocent. Such a nation lives religious hypocrisy, social decadence and a moral lie.

Any honest examination of the life of our city proves how far we are from the standard of human freedom declared in the nation’s founding document, The Declaration of Independence. Rather than human freedom we witness a colossal human tragedy and a human rights emergency. The recovery of standards of human dignity demand that everyone who loves this city and country take a hard look at the situation, and ask what must I do to change this situation. Great achievements must begin somewhere, and they always begin when people look tragedy in the face, ask what can I do and decide to act. If we are not capable of this examination, we may yet become one of the most distinguished and monumental failures in the history of nations. As a city, a nation and a people we must ultimately recognize we are all wrapped in a single garment of destiny, what affects one directly affects us all indirectly.

 


 

Time to Break Silence

It is time to break the silence about what Dr. King called the triple evils: racism, poverty and militarism. These forms of violence, indeed terror, exist in a vicious cycle, deteriorating hope, progress and opportunity, as a result of humankind’s depravity toward its own.

Now is the time! We are the ones. We, the people, are the leaders we have waited for. We are compelled to speak truth to power, to say to the powerful and the powerless, enough is enough. To our elected officials we demand an end to empty promises when you run for office and service to the rich and privileged while in office. To the banks, universities, real estate developers, gentrifiers, and others that profit from our poverty and misery, we say you will be held accountable to the people of this city. To those who refuse to pay their fair share of taxes to help fund our schools, we assure you change is on the way. To the Philadelphia police department, we declare, we intend to hold you to democratic, human and anti-racist standards in your relations with Black and Brown communities.

It is time for change! It’s time for black, brown and poor communities to realize political and economic power to change conditions that shape their lives and communities. But most of all it’s time that we transform the structure of institutions, the foundations of our communities and our values.

 

Toward Beloved Community

We seek a beloved community, where racism, bigotry and prejudice are not tolerated and the continual reproduction of poverty, hunger and homelessness ceases. We seek beloved community where disputes are resolved within, through peaceful conflict-resolution and equitable laws serve the ends of justice. We seek beloved community founded upon a qualitative change in our souls as well as in our lives, a true revolution of values that will cause us to question the fairness and justice of our past and present ((Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence, 4 April 1967).

Justice is what love looks like in public. Freedom and equality are what democracy looks like in actuality. Moreover, without life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for Black folk, these values can hardly exist for anyone. Black freedom is a condition of the freedom for all fellow citizens. Our commitment to justice, democracy and the people is what grounds our hope in the realization of a new city that serves all of us. Our hope is rooted in what led Martin Luther King Jr to the conviction that America could become a great nation if we the people rose up and practiced the religious, moral and social values we claim as our foundations.

From our diverse communities, faiths, moral beliefs and ideologies we are united in love for justice and our people. We are grounded in a love sublime, an all-embracing love for all God’s children. The prophets of the Old and New Testaments and the Holy Quran inspire us. We seek courage from the examples of our ancestors and embrace the spirits of our martyrs of the distant and recent past.

We will march and rally for the future of our city and nation in the spirit of hope. We are confident that change is on the way. This will continue and intensify ongoing protest actions, sit-in, die-ins, pray ins, teach ins, petitions and whatever else is necessary to turn the tide towards justice. We declare our right to protest for right. And in the words of the great Black song of hope “we ain’t gonna let nobody turn us around.” We will march until, in the words of Martin Luther King, “Justice runs down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream”.

What We Stand For

Racial Justice and the Dignity of each Person.

The racist school-to-prison pipeline begins in failing schools. Policies that fund schools based upon property taxes, redistribute funding to charter schools and require teachers to teach to standardized tests condemn poor communities to segregated, understaffed, under-resourced and ineffective schools. In Philadelphia, a “majority minority” city, public schools doom black and poor students to destitution, graduating only 10% of those who enter 9th grade and leaving half of all adults without the literacy skills required to compete for “family-sustaining” jobs with benefits. Bigoted racial profiling, stop and frisk, mandatory minimum sentencing and three-strikes-you’re-out policies entrap black youth in criminalization and create a culture that devalues black life and condones police misuse and abuse of power throughout the black community. Pennsylvania spends hundreds of millions to build prisons, in which more than 60% of inmates are blacks and Hispanics. For Black males in their thirties, 1 in every 10 is in prison or jail on any given day and two-thirds of all persons in prison for drug offenses are people of color. These insidious policies of institutional racism, apartheid education and mass incarceration must stop!

Recognizing that liberation for black people advances the freedom of all, we must work tirelessly to extinguish racist philosophy, abolishing policies of racism and restoring the dignity, value and productive potential of the black community, black youth, and black men especially. We are committed to establishing a city and society in which all are viewed as created in the image of God with inalienable human rights and justice as their birthright.

Economic Justice and Stability

With extremely high levels of poverty and deep poverty, the highest among major cities, Philadelphia’s unemployment rate in recent years has been 15.1% for blacks. However, when those who are underemployed or have dropped out of the labor force altogether are counted, the figure jumps to close to 30 %. Instead of tackling problems of unemployment and discrimination, Philadelphia is spending millions to displace the poor, destroying black communities and businesses, to gentrify neighborhoods for the wealthy.  Nationwide, policies that privatize prisons and prison services enrich the elite who then lobby and contribute to politicians to institute draconian policies that usher blacks and browns into prisons at unheard of rates for ever increasing profits. Economic policies that enrich private corporations at the expense of poor neighborhoods, schools and families to create a black and brown permanent under-caste must stop!

We are committed to the complete elimination of poverty, the restructuring the economy and bridging the gulf between the haves and the have-nots. We must challenge our governments to deploy the technology and resources needed to eliminate the structures of poverty. We call for restructuring the systems and policies that destabilize black and poor communities, producing unemployment, homelessness, hunger, malnutrition, illiteracy, infant mortality and slums. We seek economic power for the poor, enabling individuals to make decisions concerning their own lives. We seek fair working conditions for laborers, ensuring the right to organize and just representation. And we seek stability for families and communities, assuring access to training, small business financing and other means of self-improvement.

Communities of Peace

Images of tanks and high-tech weapons trained on citizens of Ferguson, Missouri, as they democratically challenged injustice, are forever burned into our collective consciousness and hearts. There is no more vivid reminder today of the culture of violence that now dominates the world, our nation, cities, communities and homes. Unending wars for resources, fighting terror with terror using drones and torture, the spread of ever more deadly weaponry and establishment of policies that put the government at war with its citizens and condemn them to the violence of poverty permeate every fiber of our existence. In Philadelphia where more than 80% of homicides have been committed with guns and 242 homicides were committed in 2014 (a 2% increase over 2013) and where black males are 90% of murder victims and offenders, our youth come to believe that black lives don’t matter and only intimidation and domination win the day. As a result, they suffer abuse too often, fight on the streets and in the military beyond their numbers and die too young. This glorification of war and weapons, which are creating unending war zones, where militaries and police target, entangle and execute whole communities at will, must stop!

We are committed to ending the culture of militarism and violence that pervade our lives in the forms of war, imperialism, domestic violence, rape, terrorism, human trafficking, media violence, drugs, child abuse, violent crime and mass incarceration. We oppose rapid increase of military spending, the proliferation of high powered weapons to be used in and against our communities and the continued pursuit of war. We seek to build these communities of peace through tireless efforts, creative work and seizing the time to do right, rather than resorting to intimidation and fear (Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Nonviolence and Racial Justice, 6 February 1957).

 

We will challenge all policies that embroil black communities in crime and trap black youth in lives of criminality. We must end the policies and culture of mass incarceration, stop the proliferation of guns in our communities, oppose wars here and abroad and transform our values. Our goal is to establish a fuller sense of community, rooted in our collective political and economic control and new strategies to connect, collaborate and create holistic relationships. We are building the beloved community upon new relationships, understandings and redeeming goodwill.

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Honor the Legacy. All Out for MLK Day!

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Mayoral Candidates Need To Speak Out on New Round of Charter School Expansion

An Open Letter From PCAPS Leaders

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With charter school advocates pressing for a new round of expansion there is a need for those who would lead Philadelphia to address what this will mean for public education in our city.

We believe the following points need to be recognized:

1) Charter expansion comes at a cost. This year, charter schools will cost the district $750 million—one third of the district’s school budget. Charter schools represent huge stranded costs and make it nearly impossible for the school district to plan and assess the savings that an economy of scale brings. This is occurring at a time when the District is facing an ongoing deficit and school budgets are going without adequate staff, classroom supplies and academic offerings to give our children a high quality education. Fraud, lack of transparency and mismanagement are serious problems in the charter sector because of a lack of regulation. Thirty million dollars have been lost as a result and this is surely the tip of a large iceberg. No further expansion should be allowed until a serious regulatory regime is established.
2) There is no compelling evidence that the growth of charter school sector has produced a school system that has better outcomes for students. Given that traditional public schools have been starved of resources, it is not surprising that many parents have opted for charter schools. However, like regular public schools, charter performance varies considerably with poverty being the single greatest predictor. Over the last two decades, Philadelphia schools moved the needle of student achievement when investments were made in full day kindergarten and lower class size, and in the most recent period have gone backward because of budget cuts.
3) Charter school expansion has increased racial and class segregation and isolation in our schools. Treating education as a commodity and creating a market of winners and losers is contrary to the democratic vision of public schools that provide equality of opportunity. Equity, is every bit as important as choice when it comes to public education.
4) Sustainable community schools are an alternative to both charters and resource starved, traditional public schools. The community schools model emphasizes enlisting parents and the community as partners, making schools hubs for services to families, developing engaging curriculum and restorative practices that nurture positive student behavior. PCAPS is calling for 10% of our schools to become sustainable community schools over the next four years.

With 40 applications for new charters up for SRC approval, it is urgent that candidates and elected officials generally speak out on these issues. We would like to meet with you to share our research and analysis on both charter school fraud prevention and sustainable community schools and hear what you think about these important questions.

Jerry Jordan, President of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers

Gabe Morgan, Director, PA SEIU 32 BJ

Kia Hinton, Parent leader, Board Chair, ACTION United

Raphael Randall, Executive Director, Youth United For Change

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PCAPS calls on Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane to Investigate Charter School Fraud Prevention Practices Requests by community and parents for information go Unanswered

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After uncovering $30 Million in fraud by Pennsylvania Charter schools, members of the community and parents have seen their “Right to Know” requests for information about Philadelphia Charter Schools fraud prevention policies and other public information go unanswered. A formal complaint will be filed on Monday and a request that the PA Attorney General open an investigation into these private, non-profits and how they care for taxpayer dollars.
Where: 21 S. 12st St. Philadelphia
When: Monday, December 8, 2014, 11 AM
Who: Charter and Public School Parents and
Members of ACTION United and PCAPS
After leaving the Attorney General’s office, members will head over to 440 N. Broad. The School Reform Commission is starting hearings on 40 new charter applications. We will deliver the report, highlighting the existing charters that are seeking to expand at the same time they have inadequate controls and insufficient SRC and state regulation, jeopardizing additional Millions of taxpayer dollars.The SRC has refused our request to increase auditors and to require fraud risk assessments by all charters, including those applying in this new round.

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Mayoral Candidates Need to Speak Out on Double Standard for Charters

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Charter Turkey of the Year Bus Tour Tomorrow!

ASPIRA PA. operates a growing empire of publically funded schools but ignores the law requiring them to do so in a transparent fashion.   They have earned the Turkey of the Year Award.

ASPIRA PA. operates a growing empire of publically funded schools but ignores the law requiring them to do so in a transparent fashion. They have earned the Turkey of the Year Award.

Tomorrow we will recognize a few of the many charters who have refused to turn over documents that are supposed to be part of the public record to our charter school task force. How can we be talking about expanding the charter school sector when charters ignore the existing law that calls for a minimal degree of transparency? We say no charter school expansion unless there are meaningful checks against fraud in the law and the administration of charters.

Join us on the bus or meet us at anyone of the following stops (times are approximate):

1:00 PM Meeting at ACTION United

Bus departs at 1:15

1:15 PM Arrive at People for People Charter School, 800 North Broad
No response to our request

1:30 PM Depart P for P, leave for Multicultural

Bus Agenda Part 1:
Welcome, Introductions
Why we are here today: the tour itiniery

1:45 Arrive Multi-Cultural Charter, 3821 N. Broad St
No fraud risk management plan or fraud risk assessment,
no list of Board members

2:00 Depart Multi-cultural

Bus agenda Part 2:

2:15 Mosaica-Birney, 9th and Lindley, 900 W. Lindley
For Profit charter, no reponse
applying to expand

2:30 Leave Birney, for Aspira

Bus Agenda Part 3:

2:45 Arrive Asipra HQ 5th & Courtland; 4322 N. 5th St
No response, wants to expand, lots of questions about mixing funds for organization and school; spending $600K fighting unionization

3:00 depart Aspira, drive to YUC

Bus Agenda Part 4:

3:30 arrive YUC 1910 N. Front St

4:00 Depart for Memphis Street, 2950 Memphis, 19134
No fraud policy,
Renaissance school

4:15 arrive Memphis

4:45 depart Memphis/YUC

Bus Agenda Part 5:
Debrief, next steps

5:00 Back to office

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Paying More and Getting Less, A Tale of Two School Districts

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photo credit: Huffinton Post

 

The following testimony  from Anne Gemmell at last week’s “people’s hearings” prior to the regular session, draws out the inequity in the way education is funded in our state.

 

Good afternoon, Senator Patrick Brown, fellow esteemed members of the Basic Education Funding Commission and concerned citizens of our region. Thank you for being here today to listen to the families affected by the lack of a sensible funding formula for our schools. Leadership begins with listening.

 

My name is Anne Gemmell and I live in Whitemarsh, PA. I am a former Philadelphia history teacher and mother of three. Full disclosure, I am also the Pre-K for PA Field Director at Public Citizens for Children in Youth (PCCY). I felt compelled to speak today because I am in a rather unique situation. I have seen our statewide funding problem from the front row. My daughters, Isabelle and Eva live primarily with me and attend Colonial School District schools.  My son Harrison lives primarily with his father in Philadelphia. Therefore, he attends a city school district high school. The difference between school resources is astounding. In my daughters’ suburban schools, they have a handle on every child with any need whatsoever. If they speak a second language, if they have any disabilities, if they need help paying for a class trip, if children lack hats and gloves, the school is able to help. The need there is manageable and well-managed. In Philadelphia, simply determining all of the crushing needs children have is very challenging. Actually managing the crushing need and managing it well is not possible under the current circumstances. Philadelphia is the deepest poor large city in the country and our state’s lack of school funding equity is exacerbating conditions for thousands and thousands of children.

 

I once thought it was due to the city’s lack of willingness to raise property taxes. But, upon deeper examination, I learned this is not the case at all. Amazingly, homeowners in Philadelphia are far more burdened than homeowners and families in surrounding districts. According to Pennsylvania’s own State Tax Equalization Board, Colonial school district homeowners pay $12.40 for every $1,000 of property value. However, in Philadelphia, homeowners are paying $20.20 for every $1,000 of property value. This 8 point gap of equalized millage rates for neighboring districts would be bad news even if the schools were equally adequate. But, to make matters worse, in Colonial SD, we are paying less in taxes but enjoying more resources in our schools. Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, homeowners carry a far heavier tax burden but are suffering deeply under-resourced schools for their families.  The equalized millage rate is especially apparent to our family because it translates in absolute numbers as well. In Whitemarsh we pay about $3,400 in property taxes per year for well-funded schools. However, in Philadelphia, we pay over $6,000 per year for a house of about the same value. Yes, we (and many other Philadelphians) pay more for schools with deeply inadequate resources. How can leaders allow such backward policy go on year after year? Why do we even track STEB equalized millage rates if we are not willing to implement policies that could account for them? Further, why would we knowingly allow so many children across PA to be short-changed during their critical, youthful years simply because they live in a community unable to extract any more local resources?

 

In closing, I had to buy my kids new coats this past weekend. As I looked at all of the Christmas decorations everywhere, I thought it was annoying before Thanksgiving. What is the season is really all about? To me, it’s not only about the historical baby Jesus and the pure love only a mother can know. Christmas is also a metaphor for all children here and now. All children need humanity, hope, and opportunity through love writ large: justice. A smart school funding formula in PA would not only be a vast improvement in fiscal and education policy, but it would also be an expression of justice. I urge you to forge an equitable, predictable and adequate school funding formula for Pennsylvania as soon as possible. It means more real opportunity, more possibility and less crushing need for thousands of families and communities across PA. Thank you.

 

 

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We Want Sustainable Community Schools

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Over a hundred people came together at Arch St. Methodist Church last night to kick of a campaign for sustainable community schools.   The event was part of a national week of action in 15 cities across the country, sponsored by the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools (AROS)

Sustainable community schools are a transformative alternative to both privatization in the form of unaccountable charter schools and the resource starved, test driven neighborhood schools that we now have in Philadelphia. It’s a vision that calls for realizing the promise of the historic Brown decision….quality, public schools for all children.

One of the strengths of this campaign is that it brings together people who are already fighting for one or another of the elements of community schools.   It brings together these strands of the education justice movement in the form of a practical demand that reflects our democratic values.

Last night’s event mirrored that understanding.   A powerful video made by the Media Mobilizing Project featured interviews with students, parents and educators involved in the fight against budget austerity and privatization.

A panel moderated by three high school students from Youth United For Change heard from Kendra Brooks, President of the Steel School Advisory Committee and a parent leader from ACTION United, talk about the successful struggle to defeat the takeover of the school by Mastery Charter and the Steel’s community’s vision of a community school.

Sakiema Wood, a senior at South Philadelphia School, a member of the school peer mediation program and a member of the Philadelphia Student Union talked about the harmful consequences of negative, punitive discipline and why restorative practices are needed as part of the sustainable community school vision

Tom Wyatt, another parent from Passyunk Square Civic Association, spoke about the effort to draw on neighborhood resources in developing “wrap around” services at Jackson elementary.

Tim Boyle, a teacher at Chester Arthur Elementary and a Teaching Consultant for the Philadelphia Writing Project, spoke on the need for a curriculum and instruction that engages students and how a school integrated with the community could provide more relevance.

PCAPS Coordinator Ron Whitehorne outlined the strategy for getting 10% of Philadelphia Schools to be Sustainable Community Schools in four years, focusing on the demand that School Improvement Grant money be used exclusively for that purpose. Whitehorne promised that this issue would be a litmus test for mayoral and council candidates in the coming year.

A petition drive aimed at the SRC was launched.   At last night’s meeting SRC meeting several people testified.   PCAPS statement: SRC statement on sustainable community schools

Check the Community Schools task force for updates, meetings, and documents related to this campaign.   And check out these pictures.   Photo credits: Harvey Finkle, Terrance Meacham

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Education Action Calendar for Week of November 16th

calendar_of_eventsMonday: PCAPS charter school task force meeting at ACTION United office, 648 N. Broad st., 5PM

Tuesday: The 15 member Pennsylvania Basic Education Funding Commission, is making its first and only trip to Philadelphia. Because these “hearings” have not permitted public testimony, PCCY is having people’s hearings at noon. Meet at City hall at noon to join with others to give testimony.

At l p.m. POWER plans a related action on the 2nd floor, Mayor’s Reception Room, where they will challenge the commission to allow for public testimony and, if denied, will testify themselves. Please come out in solidarity with both of these actions if you can.

Wednesday: Public hearing before Philadelphia City Council’s Education Committee on the costs of high stakes, standardized testing, 3-5pm Philadelphia City Council Chambers, Room 400, 4th Floor City Hall, 1401 JFK Blvd., Philadelphia, PA 19107 *Enter at the NE Corner, Bring Photo ID The hearings are sponsored by APPS and testimony from parents, students and educators is welcome. Go to the facebook event page for more information: Here is the Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1506747029611298/

Thursday PCAPS meeting to kick off Campaign for Sustainable Community Schools. 4pm, Arch St. Methodist, Broad and Arch St. Video, panel of parents, student and educator talking about why we need community schools. After, we will go to the SRC meeting to testify about the need to target School Improvement Grant money for community schools.

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