Testimony of Stephanie King to the BOE, September 17, 2020

Good evening. My name is Stephanie King and I am the president of Kearny Friends, representing Gen. Philip Kearny School in Northern Liberties.

Every year, I have to come to the Board of Education to beg you not to take away our teachers through leveling. My school has been cut to the bone: we’ve been reduced to one homeroom of students in grades 2, 6, 7, & 8. My daughter had her classes shuffled around and re-assigned in 2 out of 5 years. Our principal does a wonderful job recruiting for diversity, but every year, those new teachers are always first on the chopping block, snatched away from us like the Grinch stealing Christmas presents.

I am grateful that the district responded to our petition, signed by nearly 2300 people, by announcing that no teachers would be removed from classrooms while we are still in remote learning. Now is the time for you to commit to no leveling for the 2020-21 school year, and to a revision of policy to end the practice of removing teachers from in-progress classrooms.

First of all, leveling is barbaric in the best of times. It disproportionately affects underprivileged schools and contributes to their high turnover. It stresses out our students and causes huge ripples in each school community, as principals and teachers struggle to fill the holes that YOU created.

You say you care about equity. You say you care about students’ mental well-being. You say your main focus is student achievement. Leveling is directly contrary to ALL of those things.

You say you need leveling because you can’t afford to keep that many teachers. I’m sorry, but I’m tired of you telling parents that you can’t afford the teachers our children need, while you continue to sell them out for tax breaks for corporations and shell out consulting contracts.

You say leveling “saves” the school district $12 million a year. At what price? You never talk about needing to save the $6 million a year you pay in charter CEO salaries. ​We all know the numbers this year are wonky. Parents are red-shirting their kindergartners, while affluent parents are forming pods. So while you’ve hit the pause button, in November you’re still going to make these cuts based on faulty, unreliable numbers, and then when it’s time to head back into classrooms, where will those teachers be when you need them? Gone, like dust in the wind.

We should not have to live in constant fear, while students and parents alike struggle to adjust to online learning and then return to classrooms in an uncertain environment, that here comes the District again, like some kind of goblin, to take our teachers away from us.

I am glad that you heard our voices when we said no to teacher cuts during a pandemic. But the pandemic is not over, and neither is the fight against leveling. Don’t make us come back and say it again.