My remarks are dedicated to Kenya Nation who has always taken the high road when testifying and who was treated unkindly the last time she spoke at the SRC.
What all parents want is a good education for their children in a school with experienced, dedicated faculty that includes art, music, gym, libraries and a nurse. The curriculum should be complex with experiences incorporating the richness of our wonderful city – the cradle of democracy. Parents want schools not filled with a “data driven” scripted curriculum intended to help students test well on the PSSA – no teaching to the test. These are the opportunities that I experienced as a Philadelphia public school student, and what my children experienced when they went to Philadelphia public schools.
Instead the students of Philadelphia are being starved and cheated of this education through unfair law. The public schools are not fully funded. The formula for charters ensures that there is not enough money to support all schools with staffed libraries, nurses, counselors, and the arts. School building maintenance is postponed until there are accidents like boilers blowing up. The health of children is compromised due to nursing shortages. Children who are difficult to educate are returned to public schools from charters each year. Instead of directing money for the betterment of our children, the school district is wasting money on ineffective private substitute teacher companies and frivolous lawsuits. In addition, professional development should be provided by the PSD’s incredible teachers and not expensive private companies.
Charter school students are cheated differently, but still cheated. When I enter charter schools in my new job after retiring as a special education teacher from the PSD, there is no one older. There is no one who knows what I know. In an effort to save money and tame teachers who work in charters, every teacher and every administrator is young. Experienced teachers are needed to mentor young teachers and share their knowledge. Does anyone choose to go to a hospital in which the entire hospital is staffed with beginning doctors and nurses? No! Because we know that experience matters, and that the best hospital staffs are diverse. The student populations in charters are less diverse too. When I go to public schools in South Philadelphia and the Northeast the classrooms reflect the diversity of the neighborhoods, unlike the charter schools in the same neighborhoods. I learned the value of diversity when I attended Girls’ High and made sure my children went to schools with diverse student populations. Despite the public money and the private money and the advertizing the charter schools do not have better results. (Mastery Mann scores continue to go down and Wister scores continue to rise despite cutbacks) The charters have a high turnover of students (students punished for minor infractions, return of special education students, faculty that leaves because they have no unions or job security, and must use a curriculum that is not innovative and over emphasizes test taking skills. In charter schools, parents no longer have any say in what happens to their children.
We all want our children to have a stable learning environment, which provides security and increases student learning. Each year there is continued instability in schools and communities with the turning over of schools and the “Renaissancing” of schools The rearranging of faculty breaks the precious relationships that develop between students and teachers which in turn enhance student learning. We all know that stability matters in schools and communities. We all know what schools need in order to provide rich learning opportunities. We all care deeply about the students – yet we continue to cheat them!