Calls for a More Engaging, Transparent Budget Process/Priorities Go Ignored

School District of Philadelphia Board of Education Action Meeting Testimony  4/21/22

by Diane Payne

At any Board meeting that reaches the imposed cap of 30, the question no one can answer is how many voices were shut out of publicly speaking and what topics were left publicly unsaid; you don’t keep track of who wanted to speak and what topic they were going to address.  Although written remarks can be an alternative form of expression for someone who can’t attend a meeting, it in no way should be an imposed alternative to someone who does want to attend a meeting.  Speaking publicly to our governmental officials on matters of concern is a democratic right which is impinged on by this Board.  Speaker suppression is a stellar example of community dis-engagement.   

The budget process mirrors this dis-engagement.  Advocates have been pushing for a more transparent and engaging budget process.  But just as you shut the public out of speaking, shut the PFT’s environmental specialist out of buildings, shun the demands of your district administrators, and eliminate committees; calls for a more engaging, transparent budget process go ignored.  

District administrators have been repeatedly calling for the District to fund 5 crucial position in every school: Assistant Principal, Climate Manager, Math Lead Teacher, Reading Lead Teacher, Special Ed Compliance Officer.  APPS members have been calling for a Certified Teacher Librarian in every school as well.  These are NOT positions which principals should have to choose.  They should be centrally funded, stable components of every school. Suggesting principals should have autonomy for this is like suggesting autonomy for choosing to cut off your own arm or your own leg.  That is District double speak to cover your choice of ignoring what is needed.

Listen to the demands of advocates like OCOS, Parents United, Healthy Schools Initiative, APPS, CASA, and more who have called for a “people’s budget process.”  Unfortunately, James Baldwin’s quote continues to be true…”We don’t believe what you say because we see what you do”.