This is a great day for Philadelphia. Thanks to activists including the Alliance and the other organizations who made up Our Cities Our Schools, the SCR is no more. We now have our Philadelphia Board of Education back.
The SRC was imposed on the city for the purpose of carrying out the corporate education agenda, the same agenda carried out in cities across the country—close neighborhood public schools, expand charters and make it impossible to close them when they fail, force kids to take standardized tests every year, then use those test scores to label them and their schools failing—just before charterizing or closing them. After 17 years, it is blindingly clear that this agenda has been a failure and has done little other than destabilize public schools in our city.
One purpose of this board, the most important one, is to end all of that.
One of the biggest challenges our school district faces is lack of funding from Harrisburg. The Board of Education, like boards across the state, has to be more vocal advocates for fair funding. But we also have to make sure that the dollars we get are spent on improving every classroom in every school. Outsourcing millions to consulting firms like Jounce Partners and ISA and Cambridge and TNTP—just a few examples—do nothing to improve education for our students.
Proven reforms, in other words, the things we see in other districts all of the time, must be funded by the Board. Smaller class size, reading specialists, Non-Teaching Assistants, more counselors, aides in Kindergarten, more support staff. These things work. True educators know that. This Board could signal its intention to change things by bringing back school libraries with certified school librarians. Our kids deserve that.
The Board should work toward bring back an equitable system. Abolish the Fund for the School District of Philadelphia. All funding decisions should be made by this public Board, in public. We should not have a system in which unknown individuals or companies can decide which schools will be lucky enough to get money for what they need.
In fact, all decisions about school funding and school policy must be made in public. Obey the Sunshine Act. Post all resolutions in full two weeks before the Action Meeting.
Stop approving new charter schools. The district cannot afford them. Don’t renew charters which do not meet standards. Hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars have been spent on schools which promised to educate children better than district schools but now want standards lowered when they have clearly failed to do so.
It is unfortunate that the selection process was closed to the public. But we trust that the new Board will be transparent and inclusive when making decisions about our schools and our children. Please remember what the SRC forgot: you are not accountable to the people who appointed you or their political allies. You are accountable to the children, their parents and their community.