Inequity Still Reigns

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

by Diane Payne

Supplying complete, accurate, and easily accessible information is always a challenge in district operations. On today’s agenda the failure to include the amounts for Action Items 8 and 9 is one more example of a lack of attention to detail.  It could be assumed from the agenda there is no cost involved in these 2 Items but in fact A.I. 8 totals $15 million and A.I. 9 totals $16.9 million.  It is very difficult to navigate the SDP website on a good day.  It is important to faithfully enter all necessary information.

A.I. 12 is the beginning construction of a “playful learning landscape” for Farrell school.  This is being funded by a grant from the William Penn Foundation funneled through The Fund and earmarked for 3 schools: Farrell, Pennell, and Hunter.  I hope a Board member today will dig into 1.) how Farrell was chosen and 2.) what the status is of Sheridan Elementary’s “playful learning landscape”?  

Last October the Board heard from a number of Sheridan staff and families advocating again for the District to address their playground needs.  Sheridan is located in the heart of one of the roughest parts of our city.  Farrell on the other hand is located in a polar opposite city landscape and has been the recent recipient of a new building addition.  All children in all parts of the city deserve safe buildings, real outdoor play areas, and fully resourced learning spaces.  But when you look at what the children of the Sheridan neighborhood endure compared to the Northeast neighborhood of Farrell there just is no comparison.  

Every time a playground comes before the board there is more discussion but there is still no action around equity and philanthropy.  

Once again private boards, closed to the public, collect and distribute private funds how they see fit.  More researchers and writers are highlighting how philanthropy contributes to sustaining a status quo of inequity. Right here in Philadelphia, author Erika Kitzmiller has highlighted the historic inequities in Germantown high school in her book The Roots of Educational Inequity.  Please take action on playground inequity.

I again call on the Board to rescind the speaker suppression policy.  Remove the cap and reinstitute the 3 minutes of speaking time.