Cooke, Huey and Wister Communities Rally to Save Their Schools

Since Dr. William Hite announced the plan to turn Cooke Huey and Wister elementary schools over to charter operators, the parents, school staff and the impacted neighborhoods have been fighting back. At all schools parents have been meeting to decide what they want in their schools. At Huey elementary for two successive weeks community leader Pam Williams, along with students, parents and school staff, have rallied in the middle of 52nd St, vowing to fight the charter takeover. Hundreds of people have signed the PCAPS petition calling for no charter takeover and a democratic, open process to develop a community school.

Last night, prior to the SRC meeting, in spite of the rain, all three communities rallied to protest this plan and the exclusion of parent and community voices from the process. Wister parent leader Kenya Nation-Holmes, Cooke Home and School President Deborah Azure, First grade teacher from Huey Jennifer Ballard along with several student speakers made clear that they want a strong neighborhood public school driven by the needs of their communities.  Parents United leaders Kendra Brooks, who led the fight to save Steel elementary from charter turnover, and Tonyia Coffer, parent leader at Fox Chase elementary spoke in support of the three school communities.  Community member and labor leadear Antoine Little contrasted the resources children receive in affluent suburban communities with what children in the predominantly black and brown neighborhoods of our city get.

Later parents, teachers and community supporters testified at the SRC meeting with the same message.

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Make Comcast Pay Its Fair Share!


Over a hundred people who sat in Council Chambers for over five hours waiting for a chance to speak out on the upcoming Comcast Franchise agreement. Here’s the testimony of PCAPS coordinator Ron Whitehorne
Good afternoon, Council members. My name is Ron Whitehorne. I’m a retired teacher, a parent of two children who attended neighborhood public schools and currently work as the coordinator for Philadelphia Coalition Advocating For Public Schools a coalition of educators, parents, students and community based organizations that has long advocated for corporations to pay their fair share to support our schools.

As a teacher I know first hand the way computer technology can boost student learning. Just let me share one story. At Julia de Burgos at one time I taught science to a group that my team had for three successive years, 6th thru 8th grade. I had a student named Carlos who repeatedly failed. He rarely did his assignments, doodled and talked during class and seemed beyond the reach of any strategies I knew for getting him engaged. Then we embarked on a robotics project where students constructed machines out of Legos, learned an elementary form of computer programming and then wrote programs that operated the machines from the computers. Suddenly Carlos came alive. He built a huge dinosaur robot that could do amazing things. He helped the other students over the difficult spots in the project. His pride in his new found success was a wonderful thing to behold.

It’s sad to say that kind of success story with computers is not very likely in most of our classrooms today. Computers, on average, are over 10 years old. As most people know that’s an antique in today’s world, prone to breakdown and lacking the computing power to run state of the art software. Computers that get a lot of use from students need maintenance and over burdened, over stretched staff can’t do it without more support.

We have to ask two questions.

First why should our students be denied the same advantages when it comes to computer technology that students in affluent communities have. Why should our students be short changed when we know that computer literacy is important for success in school and beyond. We know the answer. Money.

But that get’s to the second question. If money is so critical why is a corporate giant that makes record profits excused from paying school property taxes. Why isn’t a technology company that depends on the city granting it a franchise expected to do more to promote computer literacy in our schools?

Many of us are tired of the same old trickle down economics arguments that justify subsidies for corporations and the rich while we see deepening racial and economic inequality all around us, symbolized by crumbling, under staffed, under resourced schools

We need City Council to stand up for our city’s future, our children, and support a franchise agreement that includes dedicated funding for technology and staffing.

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Jitu Brown in Camden

This is a speech given by Jitu Brown, from Journey for Justice and a leader of the recent hunger strike to stop the closure of Dyett High School In Chicago and make it a community school. Jitu is speaking to parents, teachers and community members in Camden where a growing coalition is fighting for local control and against the privatization of Camden’s schools. The speech is in 3 parts owing to the time limits on youtube.

We hope to be hosting an event with Jitu and possibly some other members of the hunger strike late next month.

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Can Your Organization Sign On?


Open Letter to the School Reform Commission

We call on the School Reform Commission to reject the plan to convert three more schools to charters. The now five year old Renaissance Charter program has not delivered the promised educational gains, contributes to the District’s financial woes, and denies stakeholders a role in deciding how our schools can be improved. Instead we call on the SRC to commit to a transparent and democratic process to make these three schools transformative community schools. Community schools have a proven track record of success in a growing number of cities around the country, like Cincinnati where graduation rates have increased dramatically and racial achievement gap has shrunk.

List in Formation


American Federation of Teachers, Pennsylvania

Jewish Labor Committee

Jobs with Justice

Media Mobilizing Project

Neighborhood Networks

Parent Power Movement (Newark, N.J.)

Pennsylvania Working Families

Philadelphia AFL-CIO Council

Philadelphia Federation of Teachers

Philadelphia Student Union


Taxi Workers Alliance of Pennsylvania

UNITE HERE Locals 274 and 634

Working America

Youth United for Change

215 Peoples Alliance

For background information and analysis click here.

Email us at to add your organization to the list.

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Rally calls for Community Schools, No Charter Takeovers

for_newsworks_20151015_1095965682Evette Jones, PFT community engagment staffer, kicks off rally  Photo Credit: Newsworks

Hundreds of teachers, parents, students and community members rallied before the School Reform Commission meeting yesterday demanding the SRC reject the attempt by the District to turn over three elementary schools to charter companies. A series of speakers, including parents and staff from the three schools denounced the District’s failure to give parents any meaningful say in the fate of their schools.

PFT President Jerry Jordan  told the crowd: “It’s time to try something different. It’s time to strengthen public education in Philadelphia through community schools, as has been done in Baltimore, Chicago, St. Paul and Cincinnati.”


Jerry Jordan  photo credit: Newsworks

Kenya Holmes-Nation, a parent leader at Wister, expressed the frustrarion of dozen of parents at the District, undemocratic process and called for Wister to become a community school.


Kenya Nation Holmes  photo credit Newsworks

Speakers also faulted the Renaissance  charter initaitive as expensive, destablizing and unfair.  PCAPS coordinator Ron Whitehorne noted that “an internal study by the District found that the majority of charter operators had not met their performance goals.   At two schools, Bluford and Douglas, the District chose not to renew Universal and Young Scholars, respectively as operators.   At one school, Birney, the operator went bankrupt.   ASPIRA, another charter company favored by the District, is under a cloud with unanswered questions about financial mismanagement as well as poor academic performance”

Parents and staff at the three schools are vowing to fight.   PCAPS will be joining this fight both at the schools and city wide.   Sign our open letter to the SRC, come out to next week’s  City Council hearing, Wednesday at l p.m. in Council Chambers to speak out.

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Sign the Letter to the SRC: Community Schools Now, No to Charter Takeovers!


Open Letter to the School Reform Commission

Our children, the majority of whom are black and brown and live in poverty, deserve the same quality schools that children in white affluent communities take for granted.   Instead, we have seen budget cuts, school closures and turning over neighborhood schools to charters.   This is a failed agenda. The now five year old Renaissance Charter program has not delivered the promised educational gains, contributes to the District’s financial woes, and denies stakeholders a role in deciding how our schools can be improved.

There is a better way.   Well funded, high quality community schools.  Community schools have a proven track record of success in a growing number of cities around the country, like Cincinnati where graduation rates have increased dramatically and racial achievement gap has disappeared.   Jim Kenny and Darryl Clarke support community schools, but they are no where to be found in Hite’s Action Plan.

Can you join me and take action? Click here:


Ron Whitehorne

PCAPS Coordinator

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Telll the SRC, Community Schools Now, No Charter Takeovers!


There will be a rally at 440 N. Broad, this Thursday, 10-15, at 4:30  organized by the PFT and co-sponsored by PCAPS featuring parents, staff and community members from the three schools targeted for charter takeovers. As soon as the doors are opened we will go into the SRC meeting and will provide paper signs that can be used inside. We urge people to sign up to speak. If you are on the speakers list you cannot be denied entry. Call 215-400-4180 no later than 4:30 PM on the business day immediately preceding the meeting to register.

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Rally at Cooke says No to Charter Conversion, Calls for Community Schools


Yesterday at a rally at Cooke Elementary PFT President Jerry Jordan called for transforming Cooke and the other schools slated for conversion to charters into community schools. Jordan spoke to a responsive crowd of PFT teachers and some parents as well. Council candidate Helen Gym, State Senator Vincent Hughes and Cooke teacher  PFT Building Rep. Christine Kolenut, and PCAPS Coordinator Ron Whitehorne also spoke.

Echoing Jordan’s call for community schools, Whitehorne pointed out ” that New York, Baltimore and other cities are looking to community schools as a way to take on the deficits caused by systemic racism and poverty, while Philadelphia continues down the path of privatization.   Jim Kenny has endorsed our call for 25 new community schools.   Council President Clarke is developing his own community school initiative.   But no where in the Action 3.0 plan or in this latest initiative does it even get any mention…We won’t accept a segregated, two tier education system where black and brown children,the majority of whom are living in poverty, are denied the things children living in white affluent communities take for granted”.

PCAPS is committed to organizing along with allies across the city to defeat the charter turnover plan and press forward the campaign for community schools.   Next step is to let the SRC know that we won’t tolerate the District’s underhanded effort at pushing this plan through without a transparent, democratic process.  Come out on Thursday, October 15th at 440 N. Broad at 5pm.

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Demand the Legislature Pass a Fair Budget!

Occupation in Harrisburg in June demanding a fair budget

Occupation in Harrisburg in June demanding a fair budget

Tomorrow is a critical moment in the fight for a fair budget as the legislature votes on a revenue package that can fund our schools and close a gaping 2.2 billion dollar deficit.

The right wing Republicans have stood in the school house door opposing taxing Marcellus shale and lavishing tax breaks on corporations while starving education and human services. They did this during the Corbett years and they have continued to do since Governor Wolf took office, ignoring the mandate the voters gave the Governor to fund our schools.

Tomorrow we will see if enough Republicans join Democrats to pass a revenue package. Here in Philadelphia we need to put pressure on state reps Martina White and John Taylor to step up. Click HERE to tell your state representative to support new revenue in the budget.

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No More School Closures and Charter Takeovers…Time for Community Schools


The School District, once again, is embarking on a new round of school closures and privatization. This, in spite of clear evidence that these policies have not produced the desired educational results and in the face of broad opposition from the public.

The decision to hand over three elementary schools to charter companies continues its Renaissance charter initiative in spite of evidence that this program has failed to deliver the promised gains. An internal study by the District found that the majority of charter operators had not met their performance goals. At two schools, Bluford and Douglas, the District chose not to renew Universal and Young Scholars, respectively as operators.

The continuation of the Renaissance initiative ignores the verdict parents delivered last Spring when they overwhelmingly voted against charter conversion of Munoz-Marin and Steel Elementary. This time parents will not have a choice. The privatization agenda of the District was also a factor in the recent referendum on the SRC which endorsed a call for abolishing that body in favor of local control.

The Renaissance program also contributes to the District’s financial woes, costing about 4,000 dollars per student in the form of stranded costs.

What about community schools?

While the District’s latest initiative includes what it characterizes as innovative projects, it ignores an alternative that has a strong track record of success. Community schools, schools that seek to address the deficits created by poverty and systemic racism, have boosted graduation rates and dramatically narrowed the racial achievement gap in Cincinnati. New York and Baltimore are both investing heavily in community schools and in our state Lancaster, Allentown and Bethlehem have important initiatives along these lines.

Community schools can be the schools our children deserve…schools with wrap around social services, engaging curriculum, positive school discipline and deep and authentic partnerships with parents, staff, students and the surrounding neighborhood. There is growing support for this idea from parents and educators. Mayoral candidate Jim Kenny has endorsed our call for 25 new community schools over his term. Council President Darryl Clarke is also developing a community schools initiative.

PCAPS first raised the idea of community schools during the fight over school closures three years ago. A well organized, properly funded community schools initiative will bring families back to neighborhood schools, eliminating the need for more closures. And schools that educate the whole child, rather than focus on boosting standardized test scores, will not need to be “turned around.”

We call on the SRC to reject the District’s new closure and charterization plan. We call on Superintendent Hite to include in his next version of his Action Plan and budget proposal a commitment to 25 new community schools. We call on the Governor, City Council and the Mayoral candidates to join in calling for Dr. Hite to go back to the drawing board.

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