Testimony of Diane Payne to the BOE, January 30, 2020

I am beginning with a quote from author Ibram X Kendi which is appropriate as we enter Black Lives Matter Week of Action.  “All forms of racism are overt if our antiracist eyes are open to seeing racist policy in racial inequity.” (Pg. 221 How to be an Antiracist)

We know our toxic schools are the result of racism.  But do we attempt to identify the racist policies that create and enable this ongoing health crisis?

Action Items 5 and 6 – charter renewals for Green Woods and Independence Charter Schools are two of the 87 schools in mini Philadelphia charter districts creating financial harm to our neediest students.  Green Woods is the classic example of demographic manipulation adding to the cohort of segregated schools in our District while Independence is both evidence of demographic manipulation and achievement failure.  There is no indication that the CSO even addressed this in their recommendation to you.  When you vote to renew these two schools, you are voting to support racist policy.

Support of failing charter schools is the most expensive ticket item of racist policy  in the district’s playbook.  The continued support for charter schools by way of renewing, expanding, and heaven forbid granting new applications in the face of achievement, organizational, and financial compliance failures becomes a racist policy.

Antiracist policy will lift up the whole and benefit the whole; not just cater to the choice of some.  Viewed through the lens of the charter school sector’s failure of achievement outcomes, increase of segregation, enrichment of a chosen few, and financial harm to public school students, continued support is arguably a racist policy.

Two new charter school applications will be voted on next month.  I submitted written testimony with multiple reasons why the applications for HS2L and String Theory should be denied; foremost is the public health crisis in our schools.  We cannot afford any new charter schools.

The district has exhibited a shocking lack of leadership, transparency, accountability, and simple humanity in the face of this unfolding health crisis.  When District staff are on the street due to health concerns and NO ONE from administration or the Board shows up to address them, this is a failure of leadership.  Confidence and trust are non-existent.

Believing you are not racist is not the same as being antiracist and understanding the difference is a commitment to learning.  This commitment is especially important for those in power like this Board and administration.

I have five copies of Kendi’s book, How to be an Antiracist, for Board members to share.  I am not giving this with any intention of disrespect nor of presumptions.  This book is inspiring, motivating, and very relevant to what we do as a District.  (The five copies were distributed to Mallory Fix Lopez, Joyce Wilkerson, Dr. Hite, Chris McGinley, and Angela McIver.)