Testimony of APPS and community members to the Board of Education, September 23, 2021

Click on the title to read a transcript of the individual speaker’s testimony.

Board Must Hold Hite Accountable by Lisa Haver

Board of Education, Do Your Job! by Stephanie King

When Will Accountability Become Part of the Board’s Focus? by Dr. Cherie Micheau

End the Incompetence! by The Racial Justice Organizing Committee

Speaker Suppression Continues by Diane Payne

No to Empowerment Charter re-Application and No to renew Tech Freire by Ilene Poses

Classroom Air Quality Needs Improvement, Now! by Lizzie Rothwell

Learning While Healing by Lynda Rubin

Board Finds New Ways to Disrespect Community

Ears On The Board of Education: September 23, 2021

by Diane Payne

The Board’s deliberate and mean-spirited disrespect for the students, parents, educators, and community members  was the lowlight of this meeting. Board President Wilkerson moved speakers way down the agenda, calling on them after a lengthy presentation. At this “hybrid meeting”, the Board allowed into the auditorium only those who signed up to speak in person. With about 80% of the room empty,  at least 50 people could fit with more than adequate distancing.  After all, the Board has no problem with filling classrooms  with little ventilation to capacity or having students, in the words of Student Representative Rebecca Allen,  “packed like sardines” in hallways.  In fact, half of the Board members attended virtually, including Julia Danzy and Marie McColgan, who have supported all of the administration’s plans for full return to school buildings since last year, falsely claiming that most parents supported the administration’s plan.  Once again, there was a persistent echo in the auditorium, making it difficult for attendees to hear. The camera was positioned so far back that those viewing at home could not see the faces of the Board members or tell who was speaking. 

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Ears on the Board of Education: April 22, 2021

by Lisa Haver and Lynda Rubin

The Board continued its repressive speaker policy by excluding four APPS members from speaking at this meeting. Their topics were also excluded. The sign-up window opened at 5 PM Monday and closed just a few hours later, so it is likely that many other members of the public were not heard.  Education activists who can only speak every other month are now limited to an average of one minute per month to speak before the Board votes on items representing hundreds of millions of dollars.  

APPS did achieve some victories.  The Board voted to withdraw the Item to grant KIPP Charters several amendments including enrollment expansion.  APPS had written a letter outlining the many issues, beginning with the various names of the school on different websites, asking that the Item be withdrawn until the facts were sorted out by the CSO and presented for public scrutiny, including the reasons why the CSO was recommending that KIPP’s entire request be granted. APPS had also communicated to the Board in written testimony, letters and research reports about why they should vote to proceed with the non-renewals of Universal Bluford and Daroff charter schools. The Board voted for non-renewal.  

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City Council and Mayor Kenney Must Direct Board to Rescind Regressive Speaker Policies

This week, APPS sent the following letters regarding the Board of Education’s speaker policy to mayor Kenney and each member of Philadelphia City Council:

April 14, 2021  

Dear Councilmember,   

On behalf of the members of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools, we are writing to ask that you take a stand against the Board of Education’s silencing of the public at its public meetings.  

Over the past three months, the Board has imposed a succession of changes in their official speaker policy designed to silence their critics. The Board has, for the first time in District history, implemented an arbitrary cap of thirty adult speakers and ten student speakers.  No matter how many official items are on the agenda, or which urgent issues arise—closing of schools for lead and asbestos toxicity, reopening schools during the COVID crisis, for example—the number of speakers will remain capped, preventing members of the public from being heard.

  The Board has also imposed a two-minute limit on all speakers. No other governmental body, including City Council, cuts speakers off after two minutes. This new policy makes it difficult to present a coherent argument for or against any official item.  It also reduces the number of issues any one speaker can address.    

The Board has also made it more difficult for people to submit written testimony and to have that testimony heard during Board meetings.

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