PCAPS statement on SRC Move To Cancel PFT Contract

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Without public discussion or debate, the SRC moved today to void the contract of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and impose 45 million dollars in cuts to health care benefits.

The SRC’s long term plan is to finance a bare bones education program on the backs of school workers. SRC chair Green touts “sacrifices” by other District unions to justify imposing terms on the PFT. But these were not voluntary contributions but concessions that the District coerced.

Notably, in listing the sacrifices made by working people, Green fails to mention that corporate interests have not stepped up to fund the schools, nor has the business friendly SRC taken any steps to demand they do so. Banks make millions on financing school debt, big corporations and developers get tax abatements, and mega non profits pay no taxes to support the schools.

These concessions will not give us the schools our children need. At best this is an ineffective, stop gap measure that distracts from the fundamental changes needed to fully fund our schools.”. The long term consequences of cutting the compensation for teachers and other professionals, who already are paid less than their suburban counterparts, will make it more difficult to attract people to work in our schools.

The crisis facing our schools is rooted in the state’s failure to provide adequate revenue and an equitable formula for distributing it. Governor Corbett is the face of that failure and Bill Green is his willing accomplice.

Once again the SRC shows its contempt for the public by failing to advertise this meeting (except for a practically invisible announcement in yesterday’s Inquirer). Once again the SRC shows its lack of respect for the District workforce by refusing to treat them fairly and engage in good faith bargaining. Once again the SRC shows that it has no equitable and sustainable program for funding our schools. Once again the SRC demonstrates why we must abolish it and replace it with real democratic governance.

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“Defunding Public Education and Mass Incarceration: Two Sides of the Same Coin”

PCAPS Coordinator Ron Whitehorne speaking yesterday at Governor debate

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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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