Board of Education Stonewalling, Blocking Comments

School District of Philadelphia Board of Education Action Meeting Testimony, May 26, 2022

By Lisa Haver

The Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools sent a letter to the Board after the April action meeting to ask about how it voted on a bloc of items that approved hundreds of millions of public dollars. One item  alone was for a contract worth over in the words of BM MFL  “a quarter of a billion dollars”. We asked for the exact wording of an amendment approved unanimously by the board and we asked what the words “without penalty” meant when the Board decided to cancel any of the contracts.  We were told 1) to watch the video of the meeting again and 2) to wait for the Board to approve the minutes. Other than that the Board stonewalled us.  

APPS also wrote to ask the Board to change the agenda and vote earlier so that the people can see how they are voting and hear any deliberation on the items.  Two meetings this year so far have ended near 10 PM.  We asked for consideration for the students, parents, educators and community members who care about how the board is voting, especially on the items that they have testified about. The Board has refused and will continue to put the voting at the very end of the meeting, whether that is 9 or 10 pm. 

The Board will vote on 84 items tonight. But they have only allowed 30 general speakers. They know that they are blocking comment on most of the items they are voting on.  They told people who subscribe to twitter that there will be a charter presentation tonight. Oh. 

Capping the number of speakers, cutting their time to 2 minutes, changing the policy on speakers without notice or explanation—all of those are obvious means of speaker suppression by the Board. So is adding items and presentations without notice. How do you sign up to speak on something you don’t know about? So is refusing to answer questions about how they voted and the ramifications for students, families and educators. 

Someday maybe one Board member will break from the pack and speak up for the rights of their constituents.  But I’m not holding my breath.