Ears on the Board of Education: September 17, 2020

by Diane Payne

The Board managed to hit many lows during this September remote Action Meeting. Just hours before the meeting started, registered public speakers on action items received an email message with their zoom confirmation that stated “…the Board President will be interrupting the testimony of those individuals not speaking on the topic under which they registered and directing the host to mute their lines.”  [Bold added] The absolute control the Board has over the public process during the quarantine took a chilling turn with this threat. Board members Mallory Fix Lopez and Angela McIver spoke against the directive during the meeting, and Wilkerson seemed to relent; but several speakers were cut off when they attempted to speak on more than one topic. APPS members pointed out in their testimonies that this comes on the heels of the Board’s allowing unlimited time in several consecutive meetings to the Hilco, Inc. officials who lobbied the Board–successfully, as it turns out–for a major tax break.   

During Chief Financial Officer Uri Monson’s presentation on projected budget shortfalls, Lee Huang dropped his own bomb: suggesting the closure of public schools as a solution to a financial crisis. Several Board members spoke in agreement, using familiar buzz phrases like “tough decisions” and “difficult move”, forcing us to relive the trauma of 2013 when the SRC approved the Hite administration’s permanent closure of  23 neighborhood schools. This is disaster capitalism in action. Communities have not recovered from losing those schools, and this Board wants to impose more? If Black Lives really do matter in Philadelphia, the community needs to organize now to stop this.   

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