Board of Education Testimony 3/25/2021

by Kristin Luebbert                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Good evening.  I am here tonight to talk to you about  budgets and what they reveal about values and priorities. I want to juxtapose two things here: Action item 19 (more money for outside lawyers) and the newly released and wholly inadequate school staff allocation budgets. Perhaps these things don’t seem related to you, but they most surely are: you are underfunding schools by spending too much money on lawyers to then clean up the legal messes you create by underfunding schools.

The original ask for outside lawyers was 4 and a quarter million dollars. Now the ask is for an increase of 1.5 million dollars–with around 35 law firms lining up for our tax dollars. This budget of almost 6 million dollars for outside lawyers while our schools starve is obscene.

As highlighted by our Philly principals last week and in the Inquirer yesterday, these staffing allocations betray a shocking lack of understanding about what schools need to fulfill the BOARD’s stated vision of “a safe and nurturing community”. These school budgets careen right through your own Guardrails 1 and 2, over a cliff, and into a dangerous ravine.

As you are so fond of noting, the district does not have unlimited funds. SO the question to be asked is this:  Do you value what happens IN schools FOR our students, to BENEFIT our students, or do you just care about mopping up after the messes and harm that inadequate staffing causes?

I implore you to think  deeply and reflectively about what these budgets mean for our students in school each and every day.

To close, I will paraphrase Dr. King: any board that continues year after year to spend money on lawyers and consultants instead of on programs to benefit children is approaching spiritual death.

“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” 

MLK, Jr.