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by Karel Kilimnik
February 11, 2018

As we count down the final days of the SRC, we continue to examine the policies implemented by the Broad Academy-trained Superintendent, Dr Hite. Eli Broad is one of many uber-wealthy “philanthropists” pushing their corporate education agenda public school systems across the country, including ours.  Broad is a firm believer in free-market policies  and in the role of competition in education. Experience and degrees in education are secondary. Self-proclaimed innovation and an entrepreneurial spirit will suffice.

Two themes emerge in this edition of Eyes on the SRC. First, the determination of both the District and the SRC to outsourcing services traditionally performed by District staff.  Second,  the increasing use of data to inflict real damage on district schools at the same time the District fails to provide data justifying its decisions to overhaul certain neighborhood schools.  Where is the data to the Transformation Schools, Turnaround Network Schools, Redesign Schools, Priority Schools—all sold by the Hite administration as that year’s remedy for struggling schools? Magic Data is about as valuable as Magic Money. There is an Education Industrial Complex at work dipping into education funds and enriching edu-vendors at the expense of our children.  Some examples from this month include Resolutions A-2 and Resolution A-11, which will enrich the owners and stockholders of The New Teacher Project (TNTP) and Jounce Partners, respectively, with little expectation that it will provide a better learning experience for students.

While education advocates fight for more funding in Harrisburg, the SRC continues to put precious dollars into the pockets of vendors, consultants and faux education groups like TNTP.  Resolutions A-12, B-2, and A-3 demonstrate the growing influence of private funders including the Philadelphia School Partnership (PSP) and the William Penn Foundation, whose policies and pet projects are simply rubber-stamped by the SRC without public deliberation.

Dr Hite often speaks about what teachers should be doing to address student trauma, even as his policies inflict more turmoil on entire school communities. His decision on this year’s cohort of Priority Schools forces both Steel Elementary School in Nicetown and Rhoads Elementary School in West Philadelphia into the District’s Turnaround Network. Both principals and teachers will be compelled to re-apply for their positions. “Up to” 80% of teachers can be retained—that means 20% must leave, and that most of the faculty can be forced out before next school year.  How does all this turmoil affect students already affected by trauma? It simply escalates their feelings of instability and loss of control. Relationships developed with teachers and principals over the years are tossed aside as new teachers are brought in. Perhaps Dr. Hite sees fit to introduce one of ten partner vendors already approved by the SRC for professional development. What our students need is stability, nurturing of relationship—not blended learning that sits children in front of computer screens instead of interacting with a teacher. These resolutions (A-7, B-12) send an astronomical $19 million into the coffers of  “various vendors” and Pearson Incorporated, which has profited greatly from the enforced yearly testing mandated by No Child Left Behind.

At this meeting, the SRC will consider resolutions on proposed contracts to various vendors totaling over $114 million.

What If…?

This question takes on a new significance this month: if the SRC votes to approve all resolutions, which it does over 99% of the time, it will send more than $114 million to outside companies including:  TNTP (A-2); Kelly Services, for outsourcing of substitute services (A-4 & 5); Pearson Inc., for “instructional management” (A-7); CLI (B-9)  and other companies for more outsourcing of  Professional Development  (B-10 and B-11); several companies for online instruction/blended learning (B-12). For only $24 million, the district could bring back one Certified School Librarian for every school in the district.

Next SRC meeting:  Thursday, February 15 at 4:30 PM in the auditorium at 440 No. Broad Street.  Call 215-400-4180 by 3:30 on February 14th to sign up to speak.

Click here to see selected SRC Resolutions and the APPS analysis.