Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter made an appearance last night on “All In with Chris Hayes” on MSNBC about the awful decisions made this year about Philadelphia public schools. From mass school closings to reckless charter expansion, from closing schools to opening prisons, from eliminating fundamental education responsibilities to laying off thousands of Philadelphians – what, host Chris Hayes wanted to know, did Nutter actually feel about it all?
In a surprisingly cold, listless drone, the Mayor rattled off the standardized line on why to close schools and shutter educational programs – underutilization, budgets. Not once did he mention the fact that 80% of children in schools closed will go to schools which perform no better than the ones they attend. Not once did he talk about the impact of closing nine high schools, disrupting the lives of children in their most vulnerable years. Not once did he talk about the impact of 3,783 layoffs in a city struggling with poverty and unemployment. Not once did he talk about the quality of education in our schools when you cut every single guidance counselor and librarian and classroom aide, or when you eliminate sports, art, music, extracurriculars and other school programs. And not once did he hold Pennsylvania’s worst education governor in history accountable for these failures.
Instead, the Mayor, in this year’s education understatement of the day, referred to this period as “pretty tough economic times” and went on to defend the SRC’s decisions saying they “took the right step in honest budgeting.” (Read another viewpoint from Commissioner Joseph Dworetzky).
He also touted school choice and raised questions about his intentions to push the boundaries around whether public funding has to go to public schools:
“My job is to make sure we have a system of great schools all across the city of Philadelphia, that they are properly funded regardless of who manages them, that our children get a high quality education, that their parents are actively engaged in their education, and that the elected officials, certainly myself included, are providing the proper funding for a high quality education regardless of what school a parent decides to send their child to.”
Twitter and Facebook were abuzz with comments from public ed parents and teachers about the Mayor’s miserable appearance. Who were the Mayor’s cheerleaders? No surprise. Philadelphia Schools Partnership promoted the Mayor’s appearance. And here’s a tweet from Marc Magee, head of the Astroturf organization 50Can which operates a dreadful arm in Philadelphia called PennCan working to boost funding for cyber charters and expand vouchers in PA.
[Updated] In 2007, I helped Michael Nutter’s inaugural campaign by serving on his short-lived education committee. As a colleague of mine recently reminded me, check out Candidate Nutter’s #1 priority under his “Putting Children First” education plan:
“Lead the fight for fair funding of public education in Philadelphia in order to ensure that Philadelphia has the resources it needs to educate all of our children for success in today’s economy, including providing a safe classroom environment.”
It’s important to consider the evolution of a Mayor who made visionary promises like that then campaigned and was elected as everyone’s favorite public school dad:
. . to what he is today as both a local leader of a bi-partisan movement to challenge the very premise of public education and to take on a national role as head of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, one of the most prominent proponents of controversial approaches toward dismantling public schools around the country from school closings to parent trigger laws.
Take a listen to the interview with Chris Hayes here, and let us know your thoughts.
- “Nutter’s awful, terrible, not good appearance on national TV,” Will Bunch, Attytood, 6/11/2013.
- “Whoops, Mayor Nutter just tipped his schools policy hand. On national TV“, Philebrity, 6/11/2013.
- “On education, Nutter doesn’t get it,” Janis Chakars, Inquirer, 6/3/2013.