Good afternoon everyone. I am Karel Kilimnik, lifelong Early Childhood Educator, retired kindergarten teacher, member of the PFT, and co-founder of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools(APPS). I attended Philadelphia School District schools from kindergarten through 12th grade. I received an excellent education and work diligently to insure that every child in this district can do the same.
First, I want to thank City Council for not only providing funds for the district but insisting that some money will be withheld until the district stops outsourcing services. Members of our organization (APPS) attend every SRC meeting and let me say that it is about time the district is held accountable for how they choose to spend money.
There should have been universal prekindergarten years ago. Presently monies are flowing from the federal government and hopefully soon from the state. It is this flood of money and how it will be used that concerns me. Let me start with an example of the outsourcing of early childhood programs from the district. In 2013 Dr. Hite proclaimed that the district would be outsourcing 2,000 Head Start slots. This announcement came on the heels of his plan to shutter over 20 schools and was buried. Some valiant parents and Head Start staff appeared at SRC meetings to plead for their centers but were unsuccessful.
The reasoning given for this privatization is cost…certified teachers cost too much. District Head Start teachers are certified, members of the PFT who receive benefits and participated (when it existed) in the steps system negotiated in the union contract. Certified teachers possess at least a bachelor’s in Early Childhood Education, many have Master’s degrees. There is stability within their ranks. Stability allows for the development of relationships between staff, students, and families. Stable relationships help young children flourish.
The requirements for receiving these outsourced slots is for a program to hold either a 3 or 4 Keystone Star rating. When these slots were outsourced some receiving centers were rated a 1 or 2. Aspira, who owes the district over $3 million dollars, wound up with 200 more slots as did a private chain of daycare centers. I want to know who is providing the oversight for the monitoring of these 2,000 slots. We already know that the district is having enormous problems with charter school oversight so who is ensuring that these young children are in developmentally appropriate settings with certified teachers?
Out of 17 people on this Universal Pre K commission I see no Early Childhood teachers. Their voices need to be heard. I sincerely hope that the 17 commissioners are aware that many will want a part of the money flowing into the city for Universal Pre K; many will have their hands out to grab a handful of coins.
Please be aware of the disaster created by the district in outsourcing substitute teacher services to a private agency with no practical knowledge of the situation. Where are the Early Childhood voices that have the educational background as well as the years of experience to understand the complexities and nuances of caring for and educating our youngest children? Where are the voices that will push for developmentally appropriate practice? Where are the voices to hold the monitors accountable for doing their job? I ask that you think about these questions and act to ensure all Universal Pre K programs are programs you would want your young child attending.
One more question –5 people were appointed by City Council and 5 by the Mayor – who appointed the other 7 to this commission?