by Karel Kilimnik
As income inequality grows each year, we witness philanthropic institutions and foundations funding more District projects and programs. Schools across the Commonwealth have still not recovered from the massive cuts former Governor Corbett imposed on districts. Pennsylvania still lags in funding public schools that must now rely more than ever on local real estate taxes. As corporations and the wealthy receive more tax cuts, resulting in less government funding available for public education, the burden of funding schools falls on the shoulders of local taxpayers. All these private funders blur the lines of accountability and transparency. They are accountable to their investors–not the public.
Parent involvement continues to be an issue as the District makes decisions often without informing parents and community members. The Mayfair School (Action Item 26) is about to receive a 14-classroom modular classroom to alleviate overcrowding. However, it appears that few if any Mayfair stakeholders were aware of this until we notified them. Outsourcing continues, whether it’s for financial matters (Action Item 7), Special Ed (Action Item 10), or counseling (Action Item 39). Once again the philanthropy/non-Profit sector steps up to fund school projects (Action Items 21 & 23). Good people may be doing good things for others, but shouldn’t we have a tax base that covers adequate school funding with everyone paying their fair share of taxes?
Public Notification and Involvement an Ongoing Problem
As we have noted in previous editions of Eyes, the Board is failing to provide printed copies to the public of items to be acted upon at both Action and Committee meetings. Under the guise of going green, no paper copies of Action Items are available for the public at Action Meetings. Three binders with print copies of the Action Items continue to sit on a table in the rear of the auditorium with a warning not to remove–as if these are not public documents. How is the public supposed to follow the deliberation and voting on the numerous Action Items without a written guide? Until October 2018, the Board followed the SRC’s practice of distributing sufficient copies of resolutions at every meeting. That needs to be restored. Not everyone has a laptop to follow along as Board members discuss Items they will be voting on. Reading these lengthy documents on a small cellphone screen is difficult if not impossible. How much money is really being saved at the expense of informing participants?
The Board Agenda continues to be problematic. Initially there were 40 Items, then there were 39. (We copied the original Agenda Items in case any disappeared.) The original Action Item 39 vanished. It has now been replaced with the former Action Item 40 ratifying a Contract with 12Plus. The original item read: Action Item 39: Contract with Project Based Learning, Inc. (Schools – Contracts). Project Based Learning,Inc is a non-profit that supports The Workshop School.
We understand that changes happen. The SRC actually noted next to the resolution “Withdrawn by staff” and provided the withdrawal date. This meant that every resolution had its own number. The Board no longer follows this practice. They simply adjust the numbers without any explanation or date of change. Board members continue to say that they want to be accountable and transparent. These changes would be a decisive move in that direction.
April Board of Education Action Meeting: Thursday April 25 at 5 PM. To register to speak, call 215 400 4010 by Wednesday April 24 at 3 or fill out the form on the Board’s webpage.