by Karel Kilimnik
Unofficial SRC Watchdogs Going Nowhere
For the past five years, APPS has acted as the unofficial watchdog of the School Reform Commission. Our members have attended every Action Meeting, as well as Policy Committee meetings and the Strategy, Policy, and Priorities (SPP) meetings (until they were abruptly discontinued without explanation two years ago). Our first edition of Eyes on the SRC debuted August 2015, and Ears on the SRC appeared in November 2015. We have written articles about many of the vendors hired by the district, including Relay Graduate School of Education, Cambridge Education, The New Teacher Project, and now Jounce Partners. We have questioned the SRC’s propensity to hastily approve contracts, with no public deliberation, including: a $10 million contract with Catapult Schools to take over the troubled Wordsworth Academy students; contracting out the highly valued Nutrition Educators who were PFT members, also given to Catapult; almost $1 million to Educational Testing Services for teacher training at the Priority/SGS Schools; the $8 million and counting to outside legal firms. This list is but a snapshot of how the District, with SRC oversight, spends its limited funds.
As a member of the Our Cities Our Schools Coalition, we joined forces with labor unions, faith-based groups and other public education advocates to lobby Mayor Kenney and Governor Wolf to return our School District to local control.
The research and writing posted on our website as observed, recorded, and analyzed decisions by the SRC proved to be invaluable in crafting our message. How did the people of the city know how destructive state control under the SRC has been? By hearing the testimonies of APPS members at SRC meetings, by reading our commentaries in the local media, by talking to our members at countless community forum first-person accounts on our website. This return to local control is a huge victory, but we will continue to fight to end the disenfranchisement of the people of Philadelphia until we have the right to vote for an elected school board—as all other Pennsylvanians do.
Victory for Philadelphia: SRC Votes to Dissolve