by Lynda Rubin
As in any drama or comedy, the cast of characters hints at things to come.The 2020 presentation of new charter applications brought back the same privatizing cast, some with different names, who continue the weakening of Philadelphia public education for their own financial and political gain. This is the annual attempt to expand the companies’ existing charter companies with the funding and protection of non-profits. The organizations behind the new charters may be non-profit in tax terms, but they are backed by for-profit edu-investors whose goal is to take the public out of public education.
For years, Philadelphia has been a Ground Zero for carrying out the ideology of the wealthy proponents of school choice. Charter companies made many promises but produced few actual gains. Charter operators, with the collaboration of the SRC and the Board, have eluded meaningful oversight for over two decades.
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by Ilene Poses
On November 17, Mayor Kenney’s 13-member Nominating Panel convened to open proceedings on filling three vacancies on the Philadelphia School Board. They billed the event as a “public hearing”, but it was actually a live television show. No public testimony or interaction of any kind was permitted. The Panel, reading quickly from their scripts, wrapped up the TV show in just over 30 minutes. Chair Wendell Pritichett, former School Reform Commissioner, gave little information on the selection process and did not give the date of the next Panel meeting. He and the Panelists did take time to congratulate each other for their service.
Pritchett mentioned in passing that the Nominating Panel would again be conducting all deliberations in executive session. Pritchett, a Penn law professor, failed to cite the specific reason for moving the Panel out of the public eye–probably because there is none. APPS members protested this same violation of the PA Sunshine Act when the Panel convened in 2018. Did the people of Philadelphia fight so hard for local control just to be shut out of all discussions about our representatives on the School Board? The Panel — itself chosen without any public input — has sent nine semi-finalists, from whom the Mayor will choose his three nominees. The Mayor can ask for more candidates if he is not satisfied with the Panel’s choices; he has until December 26 to ask for more names. City Council must confirm those nominees. In the past, however, Council has done little more than rubber-stamp the Mayor’s choices.
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By Diane Payne
The Board of Education held its final Action Meeting at the end of a year that upended the lives of every person in the world, including Philadelphia students and their families. The suffering, isolation, and fear felt by our most vulnerable citizens has been staggering–especially because so much of it was avoidable. One thing that stood out in this last public meeting was the apparent absence of District administrations’ awareness of this fact. At the November Action Meeting, Superintendent Hite, in answer to concerns raised about students’ mental health, promised to present this month the supports implemented by his administration. Students heading into the holiday season with prolonged time off from school, families whose breadwinners lost jobs and may not be able to afford to celebrate the holidays, some facing eviction–this would have been a perfect time to assure Board Members that our students have a safety net. But there was no presentation nor any question about it from any Board members.
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