Lisa Haver testimony transcript from the Philadelphia City Council budget hearing – May 17, 2017

Lisa Haver City Council 5-17-17
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Testimony of Lisa Haver

City Council, May 17, 2017

Good Morning. My name is Lisa Haver. I am a retired Philadelphia teacher and member of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools. Our members attend and testify at all Action and Policy Committee meetings of the School Reform Commission. We report on those meetings on our website, and we analyze resolutions to be voted on the SRC. We attended last week’s Council hearing on the School District budget. Yes, one problem is lack of funding from Harrisburg. But we need to more closely examine the spending priorities of the SRC.

Some of the comments made by Dr. Hite and his staff need further examination. For example, he said that he wants to have good schools close to where children live. Just a few minutes later, he repeated his plan to close three neighborhood schools each year for at least the next five years. How does that make sense? And how does the SRC justify keeping clearly substandard charter schools open while closing public schools?

It seems that the decisions about the future of our pubic schools are based on reports by businesses and foundations like the Afton Corporation, the Cambridge group, the Boston Consulting Group, the Philadelphia School Partnership, the William Penn Foundation—everyone except the parents, students and community members. That is, your constituents.

Last year, the SRC approved initial spending for “blended learning” which puts students in front of computers for a significant part of the school day. As we pointed out in our testimony, there is no credible research that shows this increases learning. Our children need more time to learn from qualified teachers. They need to learn from each other. They must have more social interaction, not less.

The Hite administration, each year, creates a new category of schools, nominally to turn these schools around. Problem is, the main tactic of all of these turnarounds—Priority schools, Transformation, Redesign, Renaissance—is getting rid of most or all of the faculty? Again, at the same time talking about district programs to deal with student trauma. Losing most of their teachers in one year is traumatic for students. And where is there any data or even anecdotal evidence that moving teachers around every year makes any of those schools better in any way?

Philadelphia’s schools need proven reforms including: smaller class size, adequate support staff, and full-time certified librarians—not part-time volunteers.

Thank you.