Testimony of Diane Payne to the BOE, June 25, 2020

There are many items on this agenda that indicate the Board’s examination of racism, inherent in Action Items, is lacking. This moment demands public officials listen to stakeholders and act. The paths the Board chooses should be lifting up the voices of the unheard, should be anti-racist, and should build a strong, vibrant, in-house structure.

This is an incomplete list of Action Items which are illustrative of not listening.

Action Item 2 is proposing to eliminate the Community Engagement Committee. In essence this committee has been largely unfunctional for over year anyway since the quarterly meetings have been scrapped. The Board has failed to acknowledge why these meetings were discontinued and now proposes to just eliminate the committee with no stated goals in place for future community engagement. The language in this item vaguely states it is “the responsibility of the whole Board.” Followed by “the Board of Education has prioritized its commitment to transparency and accessibility.”

It is not transparent nor accessible when you fail to follow your own guidelines regarding public participation with the arbitrary change in speaker policy during the remote platform, the failure of the Board to acknowledge or answer the public’s questions, the dismissal of an entire committee’s stated protocol by failing to meet quarterly, nor the elimination of that committee with nothing in place to support community engagement in the future.

In addition, this list of Action Items contains donations, grants, and District spending that supports the continued outsourcing of our District’s functions. This outsourcing is dangerous, harmful, and inequitable. Action Item 5, hands over District surveys to the Wm Penn Foundation, Action Item 6 expands the insidious corporate influence of PSP to Girls’ High, Action Item 8 over a million dollars for Teach Plus P.D, Action Item 26 for police training when you should be reducing police presence in schools. Please HEAR PSU’s demands. Action Item 44 more money to the corporate minded Neubauer Foundation complete with corporate minded ideology to embed in our school’s leaders, and Action Item 53 Old Sow Coaching. There is the list the charter renewals for schools which fail to meet minimum requirements yet will be unanimously renewed with hardly a question raised by the Board. I sent a list of questions not answered by the CSO nor asked by the Board. I would like to know if the Board will engage in a transparent and robust Charter renewal process that includes answers to the questions I posed in my written testimony.

Finally, The District needs to institute mandatory staff anti-racist training in conjunction with the educators already deeply involved in this work and not thru out-sourced programs.

The District needs to align its goals with the goals of the people of Philadelphia!