Testimony of Kathleen Butts to the BOE, January 30, 2020

Jan 30 Testimony Kathleen Butts–SDP parent and teacher, as well as part of several grassroots, school equity groups.

I am here to speak again about school equity…

1) Over 3807–and counting–students have lost significant amounts of instruction time due to asbestos contamination and there is no consistency in how this is managed.

Some schools have the privilege of meeting with SDP on a weekly basis and of on-going air quality testing, while others have little information and are forced to go back without adequate testing.

What happened at McClure was at best an unacceptable level of incompetence and negligence and at worst endangered the lives of staff and students. And, who decided that asking parents to do things like pick their kids up at 1:30 in the afternoon is an acceptable administrative decision? Furthermore, you just misused $20,000 for the “asbestos education” videos. Parents are not ignorant and uninformed; we are outraged and trying to protect our kids. That money could have been used to set up an app or a hotline, so parents could get real answers from the district about their children’s safety.

2) There is a lack of focus on special admissions schools in the CSPR process.

We have to ask ourselves how only 17% of students are black in what is supposedly the top school in our city. We have to examine feeder patterns. Why do several special admit schools have higher acceptance rates from predominantly white neighborhood schools and/or from charter schools with an unusually high level of counselor assistance with applications?

And, I know many people are afraid to talk about this, but if these are truly city-wide special admission schools, then percentages should be established so that all areas and demographics—including SPED students—are equitably represented.

3) And finally, we need to get rid of all mandates on block scheduling.

If you truly listened to teachers ​(the experts)​, many would tell you that block scheduling is detrimental to students, especially SPED and EL–as well as students who are struggling to reach grade level in reading or math.

Stop perpetuating ‘educational injustice’ and conduct focus groups or establish task forces ​(made up of teachers, parents, and community members)​ to truly and deeply examine the inequities within our school district. The current initiatives and mechanisms the school board and SDP leadership have put in place are not adequate means to address the lasting inequities and segregation within our school district.

My daughter—who was excited to be accepted to a special admit school—said to me last night: Why do we have to keep waiting for adults to do better? Our kids are watching, and even they can see the inequities in Philadelphia’s schools.