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Parents, students, teachers and community members will rally at the school then canvas the neighborhood to talk to parents and get registered voters to sign the PCAPS election pledge to vote for candidates who are committed to full, fair funding, charter school accountability, ending the school to prison pipe line and restoring our schools to local control.
Where: 3300 N. 3rd St.
When: Saturday, April 26th at 10a.m.
Click here for PCAPS position on converting Marin and Steel to charters and here for Q and A on the Marin situation and here for the same material in Spanish
Why does the District want to turn over Munoz-Marin to the charter school operator ASPIRA? Until this year, Renaissance schools, schools selected for conversion to charter schools, were the lowest performing schools based mostly on PSSA test scores. But Munoz-Marin is not one of the lowest performing schools. It was selected because ASPIRA wants it as a feeder school for Olney high which it also operates. It manages both Stetson and Olney as well as its own charters. Deputy Superintendent Paul Kihn told the Inquirer, “We see these charter providers as our partners…we wanted to ensure that the charter operators who are doing the conversions were comfortable with the kinds of schools they felt they could be successful with.” It is the needs of the charter school companies that come first.
Why should parents care if the school is run by a charter or as a regular public school? Charter schools are privately managed but funded by tax payer dollars. They are not accountable or open in the way that public schools are. The District has only a small staff monitoring charters and the charter school only comes up for renewal every five years. In the case of Renaissance charters their contracts have no time limitation. Given this, it is not surprising that corruption and mismanagement are serious problems with charters. The Inquirer reports at least 18 area charters have been subjects of federal investigations since 2008.
But isn’t ASPIRA different? ASPIRA has a proud history as an organization that has advocated for the Latino community. But since making the decision to become a large scale charter operator ASPIRA looks more and more like a business and less like a community organization. ASPIRA has a 23 million dollar investment in real estate and substantial mortgage debt. According to City Paper reporter Dan Denvir, ASPIRA Inc. of Pennsylvania owed large sums of money to four Philadelphia charter schools it runs, according to an independent audit of the organization’s finances. Denvir wrote “the nonprofit was running a deficit of $722,949 as of last June and owed the publicly financed schools $3.3 million.” That’s tax payer money that isn’t going into classrooms and schools.
ASPIRA’s treatment of it’s teachers is another sign that it has turned its back on its mission. Antonia Pantoja, ASPIRA’s founder, was a strong union supporter who believed unions were necessary to fight discrimination. But now ASPIRA is fighting the efforts of teachers at Olney high to organize a union. Last year, the Daily News reported that Olney High School had paid $17,094 to a law firm to advise it on how to keep the union out. The National Labor Relations Board has found merit in charges that teachers were “threatened” and “interrogated” by school administrators for union activity.
What happens to the Munoz-Marin staff if it becomes a charter? All the staff would have to reapply for their jobs. Only half could be rehired. In most cases few staff are rehired and many do not want to work for charters that are non-union. Teachers who chose not to reapply will remain District employees and will be eligible for positions in other schools depending on availability and seniority.
But don’t ASPIRA’s schools do a better job? If we only look at standardized test scores we find that ASPIRA does better at Stetson than Marin in Math but Marin has higher reading scores. But test scores aren’t the only guide to how well a school is doing. Munoz-Marin, in spite of harmful budget cutbacks, has important strengths including a dedicated staff of teachers and administrators. The school, with a high percentage of bi-lingual staff, is strongly committed to English Language Learners. It also has a strong special education program. These are both areas where charter operators frequently fall short. With more supports Munoz-Marin could build on this foundation and be a successful, public, community school.
Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools, a labor-community coalition representing school workers, parents, and students, stands firmly with Steel parents and the Nicetown Community in opposing the conversion of the last public school in the neighborhood to a charter school.
First the District starves our schools, then faults them for not performing and sells them off to charter operators as if they were bankrupt real estate. Renaissance schools cost the district thousands of extra dollars per student over traditional neighborhood schools, but students don’t see any of this money. During a time of extreme budget cuts that have decimated counselors, arts programs, sports, teachers, and schools staff, the district wants to send some of its scant funds to Mastery Charter which wants to control all the schools in this part of the city.
As Steel parent Nikki Bagby said ““Charters should be a choice of individual parents – they should not be forced on entire school communities.” Charter schools are run as private businesses with little accountability to the public. Charter conversion means Steel’s experienced staff, many of whom have been there for decades, would be lost and replaced. This is not fair to teachers or good for students who depend on strong, nurturing relationships with adults they know.
We believe strong public schools that serve all children are the foundation of a democratic society. We need to invest in our public schools to make them better.
We need schools that offer the things that most suburban communities take for granted – experienced, qualified teachers, low class size, arts and music, counselors, certified librarians and nurses. That’s what the District should be fighting for.
Instead the District has launched a costly process to help out charter operators without first consulting the community. And now it seeks to make this decision in a matter of weeks. Once again the SRC shows little respect for the communities that depend on public education.
We applaud the actions of Steel parents and the Concerned Neighbors of Nicetown and pledge our support in this fight.
… I just want to offer two thoughts on the governance question. One is, while it’s imperfect, I think the current state and city hybrid appointed School Reform Commission is probably the best model. Here’s what’s wrong with an elected school board. If you’ve been in Philly lately you know we are engulfed in a huge scandal right now about elected officials taking cash payments. There is a lot of evidence of that in Philly’s history and in urban politics in general. The smaller the race the more opportunity there is for abuse”.
Philadelphia School Partnership Executive Director Mark Gleason
No surprise here. The present form of governance with no public accountability and minimal transparency suits Mr. Gleason fine. PSP is free to maneuver behind the scenes, using money as a lever, to advance its privatization agenda.
The irony of Gleason holding up corruption as a reason to reject an elected school board is rich. The PSP, while operating legally, represents a profound form of corruption of democratic institutions. The monied few are calling the shots, elbowing out the public.
The antidote to corruption is more democracy and transparency, not less. This month we will be circulating petitions to place a question on the ballot to return our schools to local control and abolish the SRC. Join the fight!
The School District, in the midst of a severe budget crunch is spending millions of dollars on converting two more neighborhood schools to charters.
Steel Elementary in Nicetown and Munoz Marin Elementary in Kensington were selected, not based on school performance as with past Renaissance schools, but to accommodate the two charter school operators, Mastery and ASPIRA, who want them because they fit the feeder patterns for their burgeoning collection of schools.
In a new low for cynicism the District is allowing the parents to choose between keeping the school public or converting it to a charter. By depriving the schools of resources the District prejudices the vote. If it remains public there is no additional money. Charter schools are somewhat insulated from the impact of budget cuts by private money and because they don’t feel the pinch until the year following
First the District starves our schools, then faults them for not performing and sells them off to charter operators.
But, in spite of the efforts of the District and their charter “partners”, these two school communities are fighting back. School staff, parents, and community members are organizing for a NO vote. They want to see the District invest in our schools and partner with the community to develop improvement plans rather than turn them over to these companies. They want to keep valued teachers who have worked hard for their students.
PCAPS stands with them and will do everything we can to support them. We call on our members and supporters to volunteer their time to help organize and educate the community. At Steel volunteers are needed to table in the mornings and canvas on weekends. If you can help please contact us at email@example.com