Diane Payne’s SRC testimony transcript – September 15, 2015

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I am speaking today about the lack of transparency in the SRC’s conducting of business. You are a governmental body charged with overseeing our city’s public schools. You manage a billion dollar budget and decide how those precious dollars are spent. Yet, time after time, members of the public are kept in the dark as to the actions you take that affect the hearts, minds & well-being of our children, our teachers, and our neighborhoods.

You have let languish your own charter school office recommendations of non-renewal for two Aspira schools and two Universal schools. Conversations and meetings with pro-charter organizations have come to light through Freedom of Information Access indicating a pro-corporate influence which excludes members of the public. You continue to spend precious dollars on lawsuits that protect a lack of transparency such as fighting whistle blowers, cancelling the PFT contract, and the stonewalling on the Sunshine Act lawsuit. You pull programs and materials out of your hat to spend more of our precious dollars on yet you fail to reopen even ONE school library. School libraries have solid research backing their worth. What influence do organizations or vendors have to promote these questionable programs. This summer, you nobly approved a code of conduct revision to eliminate kindergarten suspensions.

Who would not agree that kindergarteners should NOT be suspended? So, on the face, this is honorable, just and the right thing to do. Except for the parts you are leaving out. Training on trauma should be a given considering the issues facing all of our children. But training alone will not save these children, teachers and classrooms when you put nothing else in place. Here are my questions regarding this decision: What is the developmentally appropriate curriculum you have put in place for our kindergarten classes? Have you lowered the student/teacher ratio and/or placed classroom assistants in these classes? Are you advocating for play in kindergarten and is it in writing in your policy somewhere? Are you providing play materials for these classes? Do you have a counselor/student ratio that allows for counseling? If, the answers to these questions are no, you are simply causing more trauma to already traumatized students and to teachers and the classroom at large. This becomes another unfunded mandate that sounds so logical and perfect but is shrouded in a lack of transparency about what it really means.