Testimony of Diane Payne to the Board of Education, February 28, 2019

Three new Charter Applications on top of 20 years of failed performance expectations including the failed performance of the three applicants. Enrichment of those savvy enough to get in on the money-making side – lucrative CEO & administrative staff salaries, management company deals and more – BUT NOT MONEY FOR CHARTER SCHOOL TEACHERS. 20 years’ worth of taxation without representation. More and more public outcry and investigative reports about the failure and abuse of this system. Investigative reports in the Notebook have recently highlighted for the public alarming questions and deficiencies on two of the applicants.

You are NOT an elected school board, so we find ourselves in the very same position we did this time last year. Helpless to have a real public say because WE cannot vote you out if you continue to give our tax money away. It is interesting that Philadelphia, the state’s biggest and poorest school district with the highest population of people of color are the ONLY ONES DENIED THIS DEMOCRATIC RIGHT IN THE WHOLE STATE. And, coincidentally, the only ones with the largest proportion of tax giveaways in the form of expanding charter school seats. Please vote No on all three of these applications.

I also want to bring up the contentious topic of Teacher Retention. Last week, at the Student Achievement meeting, the District’s Talent Office presentation was full of lingo – on-boarding, pipeline, and talent partners to name a few – yet completely devoid of the lived reality of teachers in our schools. This is a topic that many current and retired educators have brought before you…the disconnect between 440’s plans and words and the real world of District teachers.

Teacher Andrew Saltz came before you months ago at the Student Achievement and Support Committee and spelled it out in a heart wrenching testimony, still the District’s Recruitment & Retention presentation exemplified 440’s detachment from reality. The Talent Office presentation was noteworthy in the number of things it didn’t address but my 3 minutes only allows me time to mention one – the Danielson Framework and it’s oppressive, soul crushing use against teachers. The hoops, demands, and absurdity built into this evaluation system and wielded by way too many heartless administrators did not appear on the District’s PowerPoint.

My question for you today – what steps will 440 administrators take to genuinely understand the concerns and problems of teachers in way that safeguards them from retribution? Your teachers work hard every single day struggling against all odds – stop using them as punching bags as a significant step toward teacher retention.