Testimony for Philadelphia City Council Hearing School District Budget
English Department Head (Retired)
A. Philip Randolph Career Tech High School
Member, Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools (APPS)
Registered Voter, 13thWard, 4thDivision
Good afternoon, members of City Council and winners (93,378 to 22,435) of yesterday’s ballot question #2on your new role in Philadelphia Public Schools School Board governance! Congratulations from one of the voters who contributed to that majority.
Adding the right to review appointments to the school board to your current prime position as school district funders (as the state legislature maintains its heartless derogation of responsibility in that regard) provides Council with the opportunity and responsibility to ask and demand answers to the hard questions in school governance and expenditures. Your constituents, especially youngsters, their parents and guardians will be looking to you to represent their interests (proper resourcing and staffing, safe, healthy, and inviting learning environments) with vigor and consistency. A few suggestions:
For Superintendent Dr. William Hite, the key crossover figure from SRC to local control, whose contract has several years to run, and to the new Board of Education:
Will there be a movement away from the billionaire Eli Broad philosophyof churn, school “failure” labeling, closures and “turnarounds?”
Will a comprehensive plan for dealing with horrifying threats to student and staff health (lead paint chips and dust; mold; asbestos; aged heating and cooling systems) be a top priority?
Will restoration of a fully-resourced, professionally-staffed library in every school, not just Masterman, Central, SLA and Penn-Alexander. (Random donations of books like those I delivered from sister Girls’ High grad Jeanne Dorsey Robinson, class of 1943, to A. Philip Randolph last week, along with scads of good-hearted volunteers to hand them out, do not a legitimate school library make) be recognized and planned for as essential, not optional?
Will we raise equity as a “prime directive” – providing additional, necessary funding to schools that lack philanthropic largess of graduates or Philadelphia Schools Partnership Mark Gleason-funneled and other millionaire tax-benefit contributions?
Might we return to our traditional geographic neighborhood school districts (easily accessible and understood by parents and Council members alike) move away from the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) conception of organization charts? Every school aspires to be provided “opportunity” and “autonomy,” to represent “innovation” and would never seek — especially in light of the devastating cuts to staff and supplies in our years under state control — to be tossed into a “turnaround” (equivalent to “failure“) maelstrom that willy nilly eliminates at least half of longterm staff and brings in questionable outside unproven “reformist” plans.
Ballot question #2 requires the new Board of Education to listen to parents and communities at least twice a year. Council can continue to listen as you have in the past and are continuing to do today. We will continue to rely on you as we move with hope into a brighter future for our school children.