Open letter to Board of Education: APPS Demands Reversal of Speaker Rules

February 1, 2021  

Dear President Wilkerson and Members of the Board,  

On behalf of the members of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools, we call on you reverse the changes to the Board’s official speaker policy imposed at the January 28 Action Meeting.   

For decades, from previous Boards through the School Reform Commission, members of the public have had three minutes in which to be heard on an issue—or issues. The Board, without warning or explanation, cut speakers’ time to two minutes and limited the number of speakers at every meeting. The Board did this without any public vote, violating not only the public trust but the PA Sunshine Act, by voting in secret and preventing any public comment.   

Earlier this year, President Wilkerson warned speakers that if they attempted to speak on any topic other than the one designated on their sign-up form, she would have their mics cut off.   

In contrast, charter operators were given hours-long hearings last week in which to sell their new charter applications, including a 15-minute period at the end of each hearing for closing remarks. When the Board votes on these applications, members of any affected communities will have only two minutes to argue for their denial.   

The reasons for this silencing became clear with Dr. Hite’s announcement, the day before the meeting, of his plan to send students and staff back into school buildings. In July 2020, parents, teachers, principals and students spoke for hours in opposition to Dr. Hite’s  plan. The Board clearly did not want a repeat. Anyone who tried to sign up Wednesday to speak on the plan found themselves blocked.   

Another reason emerged as we witnessed the Board’s 2 ½ hour discussion about the details of its new Goals and Guardrails.  The Board replaced public voices with their own. The first public speaker was not heard until almost three hours into the meeting. There was no consideration for parents who must feed children and help them with homework or for teachers trying to prepare lessons for the next day.   

The Board should not be using this time of public isolation to shut the public out even more.  

We demand that the Board reverse the changes in the Speakers Policy before the February 25 Action Meeting. Restore speaker time to three minutes. Remove the cap on the number of speakers.  Conduct all official business and hear from all public speakers before you embark on the next marathon Goals and Guardrails session.   

Parents, educators, students and members of the community should be seen by the Board as partners in advancing and improving public education, not obstacles.   

Sincerely,

Lisa Haver

Karel Kilimnik

Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools Calls on Board to Reject Hite Reopening Plan

Members of the grass-roots Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools have called on the Board of Education to reject the reopening plan presented by Superintendent William Hite Wednesday. The Board, which approved a version of the plan months ago, would have to place the Item on Thursday’s Action Meeting agenda. 

“Dr. Hite’s plan is not based on current data or evidence, or even the District’s own information,” said APPS Coordinator Lisa Haver. “The updates presented monthly to the Board of Education from Dr. Hite and the Chief Operations Officer still do not say that District buildings are ready for reopening. Inadequate ventilation remains an issue, and in many buildings, windows do not open at all.”

“Solicited testimonials from school officials who serve under Dr. Hite or from representatives of the business community are not a substitute for facts and data”, said Haver. “The Board must fulfill its obligation to the families and educators of the District by rejecting this plan and considering reopening only when buildings are adequately ventilated and all personnel are vaccinated. The Board cannot sit by while the health and safety of children and adults are given less than full consideration by the Hite administration.” 

Applicants Pitch Five New Charter Schools: December 21, 2020

by Lynda Rubin 

As in any drama or comedy, the cast of characters hints at things to come.The 2020 presentation of new charter applications brought back the same privatizing cast, some with different names, who continue the weakening of Philadelphia public education for their own financial and political gain. This is the annual attempt to expand the companies’ existing charter companies with the funding and protection of non-profits. The organizations behind the new charters may be non-profit in tax terms, but they are backed by for-profit edu-investors whose goal is to take the public out of public education.

For years, Philadelphia has been a Ground Zero for carrying out the ideology of the wealthy proponents of school choice.  Charter companies made many promises but produced few actual gains. Charter operators, with the collaboration of the SRC and the Board, have eluded meaningful oversight for over two decades. 

Click here to continue reading about the new applications hearing.