APPS members testimony to the Philadelphia School Reform Commission Budget Hearing – April 21, 2016

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On April 21, 2016 the Philadelphia School Reform Commission held hearings on the proposed FY17 budget.

This is testimony of members of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools at this meeting.

All six videos can be viewed here.

Click on the pictures below to view individual videos. Speakers are in order of appearance.

Karel Kilimnic SRC 4-21-16

Video of APPS member Karel Kilimnik testifying at the Philadelphia School Reform Commission Budget hearing – April 21, 2016.

The transcript of Karel’s testimony.

Diane Payne SRC testimony pic 4-21-16

Video of APPS member Diane Payne testifying at the Philadelphia School Reform Commission Budget hearing – April 21. 2016.

The transcript of Diane’s testimony.

Barbara Dowdall SRC testimony April 21, 2016.

Video of APPS member Barbara Dowdall testifying at the Philadelphia School Reform Commission Budget hearing – April 21, 2016.

The transcript of Barbara’s testimony.

Lisa Haver SRC testimony pic 4-21-16

Video of APPS member Lisa Haver testifying at the Philadelphia School Reform Commission Budget hearing – April 21, 2016.

The transcript of Lisa’s testimony.

Carol Heinsdorg SRC testimony pic 4-21-16

Video of APPS member Carol Heinsdorf testifying at the Philadelphia School Reform Commission Budget hearing – April 21, 2016.

The transcript of Carol’s testimony.

Robin Lowry SRC testimony pic 4-21-16

Video of APPS member Robin Lowry testifying at the Philadelphia School Reform Commission Budget hearing – April 21, 2016.

The transcript of Robin’s testimony.

Eyes on the SRC: April 28, 2016

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Welcome to the 9th edition of Eyes on the SRC

By Karel Kilimnik

Please note that the April 28th Action meeting starts at 4 PM instead of the usual 5:30 due to the large number of speakers the SRC expects to register. 

Also: There are two SRC Action meetings scheduled next month – Thursday May 19th at 5:30 and Thursday May 26th at 4:30. To register to speak call 215 400 4180 before 4:30 the day before each meeting.   

We need our Eyes on the SRC more than ever as it continues to change speaker policies and to add resolutions at the last minute.

The April 28th Action meeting includes the issue of the possible renewal of eleven charters, including two run by Aspira. You may remember Daniel Denvir’s 2013 City Paper article in which he reported that Aspira Inc. of Pennsylvania owed large sums of money to four of its Philadelphia charter schools, according to an independent audit of the organization’s finances as of June 30, 2012.

The Charter Office, under the supervision of the SRC, has recommended Universal Audienried and Universal Vare as well as Aspira’s Olney and Stetson schools for non-renewal. We expect a large contingent of both Aspira and Universal supporters to attend the meeting.

You might also wonder at the scheduling of votes for a record number of charter renewals at the same meeting the SRC will vote on the Resolutions placing three more schools into the Renaissance Charter program, especially as controversy continues to swirl around these decisions.

Click here to read selected SRC resolutions and APPS comments about each.


APPS calls on SRC Commissioner Green to drop his lawsuit to be reinstated as SRC Chair

Members of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools call on SRC Commissioner William Green to drop his lawsuit against Governor Wolf to reappoint him as SRC Chair and  to join with Philadelphians in supporting the Governor’s fight to fully fund the city’s public schools. 
“Mr. Green’s pointless power grab serves only to divert attention from the SRC’s failure to provide the city’s children with safe, adequately staffed schools, the instability created by their rushed decision to outsource substitutes, the millions paid to outside legal counsel in their attempt to cancel the teachers’ contract, or to address the impending chaos brought on by the forcing out of teachers and principals from seven district schools,” said Lisa Haver, co-founder of the Alliance.
“Commissioner Green’s attack on Governor Wolf doesn’t address the real issue:  that the people of this city continue to lose out because of the failure of the Republican-led legislature to fully fund Pennsylvania’s schools,” Haver said. 
APPS noted that Mr. Green  has refused to join the lawsuit challenging the under-funding of schools, has been criticized for shutting the public out of the decision making process, and has failed to obey Pennsylvania’s Sunshine Act.

The Philadelphia Inquirer article about Green’s suit. The APPS press release is cited in the article.
Lawsuit: Restoring Bill Green as SRC Chair will help Philly schools | Philadelphia Inquirer – April 19, 2016.
Green sues to regain SRC chairmanship | Philadelphia Notebook – April 19, 2016

 In the update to the preceding Inquirer article about Green’s suit, Green is quoted as saying: “State legislators “might have more confidence in sending the district money” if he were in charge.” In other words, ALEC legislators would give more money for the School District if he were in charge because he would fast track the expansion of charters.
Note: Green’s lawsuit is being sponsored by the Fairness Center, a right-wing, anti-union think tank. It is affiliated with the Commonwealth Foundation which has ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

The problem with the District’s philanthropic fund for literacy


by Lisa Haver

April 12, 2015

Reprinted from the Philadelphia Public School Notebook.

The state takeover of the School District of Philadelphia more than 15 years ago brought a new set of problems, not the least being the failure of the School Reform Commission — and a succession of highly paid superintendents and CEOs — to fulfill its stated purpose of restoring the District’s financial stability.

At the same time, the public’s ability to be heard on these and other issues has been squelched by growing corporate influence, as grants from outside organizations, including the Gates Foundation, the Philadelphia School Partnership, the William Penn Foundation, and others, have come with mandates for school closures, charter expansion, and weakening of some collective bargaining rights such as longstanding seniority protections. The Great Schools Compact Committee, which oversaw distribution of the Gates money, acted as a shadow school board.

The revival of the Fund for the School District of Philadelphia appears to be an extension of that model, in which private money has a growing influence on a public institution. Established in 2003 as a fundraising arm of the District, it later collected private donations to buy out former Superintendent Arlene Ackerman’s contract, although the District ultimately picked up the bill. Its 17-member board is made up of representatives from banking, energy, cable, financial investment, and consulting businesses — and two educators. “Investors” include GlaxoSmithKline, Wells Fargo, and the Barra, Carnegie and Lenfest Foundations.

Executive Director Donna Frisby-Greenwood said in a NewsWorks interview in January that “the Fund is committed to transparency.” But when I called to ask when the next board meeting would be held, Frisby-Greenwood told me “those meetings are private.”

The fund’s website says that the board will be working with Superintendent William Hite to “help set funding priorities … toward the needs of Philadelphia’s public schools to improve educational services and academic achievement.” But it is not the role of a handful of people from one stratum of society to make those decisions. Giving corporations and foundations a larger voice in decisions on education cedes control of the democratic process to those with the highest net worth. The rest of us get three minutes a month at the SRC meeting.

One of the fund’s initiatives is to build “classroom libraries” in the lower grades to promote early literacy. Countless studies show that having a school library with research facilities, staffed by a certified librarian – not just a small collection of books in each classroom – makes significant improvements in student learning.  The fund’s spending priorities, in this case, send the message that our children should settle for a lesser version of a school library instead of the real thing. No one should be setting those kinds of low expectations for our students.

Schools have long been recipients of donations from local businesses, some of whom develop a relationship with the students and faculty.  But having this kind of funding become institutionalized places our children in the role of charity cases, who can only receive a decent education if they have demonstrated their worthiness. The fund’s website may tell us that “the private donations that we contribute to the District do not supplant government monies,” but it does send the message that someone is here to pick up the slack when Harrisburg comes up short year after year.

Wealthy individuals and corporations, and their lobbyists, have significant influence in  Harrisburg. They should use that power to speak in one voice for a permanent fair funding formula so that principals and teachers don’t have to beg for what their schools deserve.

Mayor Kenney, who hosted a $5,000-a-person inaugural party to benefit the fund, should not place his stamp of approval on an organization that shuts out the people he has vowed to represent.  “I trust these folks and know where they stand on the issues and trust them for raising money for them,” he said of the fund’s board. But the public does not know those who staff the fund. The people, as citizens and taxpayers, are the fund for the School District of Philadelphia. That ensures us an equal place at the table when decisions about our children’s futures are made.