Equitable Resources and a People’s Master Facilities Plan

by Akira Drake Rodriguez 4.22.2021

Hello, my name is Akira Drake Rodriguez and I am a faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania’s Weitzman School of Design. I am the child of two Philadelphia School District graduates (South Philly High Class of 67 and 70). I am here to address some issues around budget allocation, transparency, and sustainability in Philadelphia’s public schools, summarizing some points I made earlier.

The first is the need for equitable resources in all Philadelphia public schools.  This includes line items in the district budget for the following five key positions that are absolutely essential for all public schools: Math Specialist Lead Teacher, Literacy Specialist Lead Teacher, Climate Manager, Assistant Principal, and Special Education Compliance Monitor.

The second is the need for a people’s facilities master plan that will address the scope of Philadelphia’s public school facilities needs and prioritize addressing the buildings and surrounding communities with the greatest disinvestment.  A people’s facilities master plan will look at both the condition of the school and the surrounding communities’ environmental conditions to prioritize how we spend facility money. We can affirm local control, green and healthy buildings, and environmental justice with this type of planning.

Finally, there are severe issues around trust, transparency, and cooperation in the school district. I think the district should create resource and facilities councils with local representation (educators, students, caregivers, community members, building engineers, curriculum leads) to oversee the above priorities.

There are many other things that warrant attention that I want to address: the first is the Board’s failure to provide transparent and accessible public input. The testimony we heard in the budget hearing in Spanish was illuminating and draws attention to the MULTIPLE school district families who speak a language other than English. The Board’s procedural changes to reduce public testimony from 3 to 2 minutes, the summarized testimonies and responses, and the otherwise inaccessible public meetings for our public schools primary decision-makers is undemocratic. The Board must change this, and I call on city Councilmembers, the Mayor, and State representatives to hold hearings on this issue. The second is the overwhelming issues of racial injustice in the school district. That includes the lack of trauma-informed curriculums and teaching and learning models, the racial disparities in the district’s selective admission/magnet schools, and the failure to address the substantial loss of Black educators from our classrooms.  Greater local control and district transparency are required to address these and other issues. Thank you.