Good Evening fellow citizens, my name is Kristin Luebbert, I am a parent, teacher, PFT member and proud member of the Caucus of Working Educators. I have come here tonight to talk about the deliberate disinvestment and forced destabilization that is being perpetrated upon our struggling communities.
For at least the last half-century, our urban communities (as well as our rural areas and small towns) have been decimated by the deliberate disinvestment of resources forced upon them by our city, our Commonwealth, and our federal government. Factories have been closed, jobs that pay a living wage have flown away—all to line the pockets of a very few. When jobs and income flee certain areas, community spaces that serve the public good vanish as well. There is only one public institution that stays and serves its community no matter the difficulties—that institution is the true public school.
Unfortunately, the administration of the School District of Philadelphia—throughout several regimes—has embarked upon a strategy of deliberate destabilization of the public schools that remain in our stressed neighborhoods. There have been many iterations of this destabilization: Renaissance, privatization, “turn-arounds”…. The things they have in common: first the SDP—claiming poverty—understaffs and underfunds its neediest schools, then they over-test with developmentally inappropriate assessments, then they blame the stressed and traumatized communities for alleged failure, and then they conspire to take away more neighborhood stability by closing or churning the neighborhood public schools.
One example of this forced destabilization is the inexplicable yet stubborn insistence of the district’s leadership team in continuing the failed relationship with Source 4 Teachers. This ineffectual agency has proven to be “below basic” at every turn, has utterly failed every “data-driven assessment”, yet still mysteriously retains the contract to NOT supply substitute teachers to the SDP. The only logical explanation is the planned destabilization of schools in preparation to turn them over to private operators.
The isolated administrators at 440 may not truly understand the place our public schools hold in the heart and fabric of their communities, but those of us who work in them every day do. I was privileged enough to attend the community meeting at Muñoz-Marín last week, and I saw a welcoming, beautiful school with great work displayed in front of each classroom, and engaged and enthusiastic parents, students, teachers, and staff. This was clearly a community that had bonded together in their mutual work and interest. I also witnessed a community that felt completely disrespected and disregarded by the power brokers in the SDP. It is a shame that members of the SRC could not find it in their hearts or schedules to attend THAT meeting.
So, the problem remains, how can we best serve our students and school communities? Common sense tells us that a scientific experiment should only change ONE variable at a time—when one changes multiple variables it is impossible to know which one caused improvement. So, by all means, help the Muñoz-Marín, Mitchell, Rhodes, and Roosevelt school communities by endowing them with needed financial resources; by advocating at the city, state, and federal levels to bring jobs and stability back into the neighborhoods; and perhaps by leaving the confines of Center City to personally witness the good work happening in these schools. What is not needed, and will not help, is the churn and burn tactics of forced destabilization that rip trusted teachers and staff away from the communities that have already lost too much.