Accomplishments

This sign from last summer's Chicago Teachers Union strike defines why and how parents and teachers can align.  (Source: Associated Press)

A sign from the 2012 Chicago teachers strike captures the spirit of the struggle around our schools. (Source: Associated Press)

Since Spring 2006, Parents United for Public Education has provided a unique and vocal parent voice in the fight for full funding, responsible budgeting, and the establishment of equitable resources for every school. Our accomplishments include:

Funding

  • Organized parents and school communities to advocate for responsible and improved City and State funding for schools, using data analysis and strategic mapping to win both district wide and school by school victories;
  • In 2013-2014, Parents United organized a campaign to file 800+ formal complaints with the PA Dept. of Education by parents from over 90 different schools stating that underfunded Philadelphia schools violated the PA Constitution guaranteeing a “thorough and efficient” education for all students. The state restored $45 million to the schools two months after our campaign launched, bringing back hundreds of staff and special education services.
  • Successfully lobbied the Philadelphia Parking Authority to commit to funding the Philadelphia Public Schools. Since 2007, the Parking Authority has delivered over $50 million to the public schools. Prior to Parents United’s campaign, the Parking Authority had failed to deliver a single dollar since a state takeover in 2004.
  • In 2007 we successfully lobbied City Council for over $30 million/year in permanent new funds, including overriding a threatened mayoral veto to support the Public Education Reinvestment Act

Academic Reform

  • Worked with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to stop a proposal to limit public transportation. Our efforts preserved free transportation for over 7,500 students in public and private schools.
  • Restored full-time nurses back to two schools in January 2014 based on complaints filed with the PA Dept. of Education.
  • Reduced the number of split grade classrooms from 100 down to four in the 2013-2014 school year.
  • Restored 100s of staff  – including counselors, teachers, aides and administrators – and $15 million in special needs programs  based in part on hundreds of complaints filed by parents in 2013-2014 school year.
  • Successfully restored busing into FY12 budget, which had been targeted for cost savings. We built a partnership with parochial , charter and public schools with busing as a fundamental access to education concern.
  • In the FY10 budget, succeeded in establishing $50.5 million for reduced class size in grades K-3 district-wide and for counselors in schools;
  • In the FY09 budget, called upon the District to redo all its budgets to include an additional $18 million for reduced class size and art and music instruction;
  • Successfully lobbied to prohibit forced split grades as District policy and diverted $10 million for 100 teachers to eliminate split grades (2008);
  • Established lower class size and art and music as “must haves” and made librarians, nurses and counselors top priorities for the School Reform Commission (2007);
  • Called for a “baseline” school budget that would guarantee quality and equity for all schools around staffing, programs and funds.

Accountability and Transparency

  • Filed and won the first city ethics complaint around lobbying against the Philadelphia School Partnership over undisclosed actions around a host of issues including a proposal to control enrollment in the School District of Philadelphia. PSP was fined $1,500 and required to file paperwork. (May 2014)
  • In Fall 2013, exposed a plan to privatize enrollment and placement of all students in District, parochial and charter schools by the Philadelphia School Partnership. As a result, a public SRC meeting was held on the issue, the plan was delayed, and the Great Schools Compact was removed from PSP offices to the City of Philadelphia.
  • Succeeded in getting the District to post its list of vendor contracts on its web page (May 2013).
  • Won open records appeals around school closings, contracting and communication between the SRC and Superintendent outside of public meetings.
  • Called for public accountability on major contracts resulting in renewed public scrutiny, most prominently an Accountability Agreement between City Hall, Harrisburg and the School District in Spring 2011, the reassessment of EMOs, alternative education, and charters, and the severing of the District’s food service contract with Aramark in fall 2007.
  • Eliminated a long-standing patronage system with the Bureau of Revision of Taxes by removing patronage employees from the District’s payroll in 2010, eventually saving the District $5 million per year. The City Controller’s office followed suit in the 2012-2013 school year.
  • In FY08 limited renewal of private managers to one year, reduced EMO management fees by one-third, and highlighted EMOs’ lack of services to English language learners and special education students;
  • Advocated to make school-by-school budget information publicly available on the District website;
  • Demanded a more transparent SRC process that resulted in evening meetings, more frequent hearings, online school budgets, and awareness of sunshine law violations;

Public Engagement

  • Raised an independent parent advocacy voice for quality public education;
  • Organized and supported parents at Edward T. Steel Elementary School through a surprise voting process in April 2014 over whether their school would remain public or be taken over by a charter operator. Parents voted by more than 2-1 (70%) to remain a public school, identifying leadership stability, teacher experience and a community-oriented school as the primary reasons for investing in public education.
  • Led the largest formal filing of complaints against the state for underfunding Philadelphia schools (2013-2014). More than 800 parents from 90+ schools filed formal complaints with the PA Dept. of Education within four months about a lack of services that allegedly violated the PA Constitution for a “thorough and efficient” education. This was the largest filing ever from a single district in a single year. In the previous year, 125 complaints had been filed statewide.
  • Organized and supported lobbying visits to City Council and to the State Capitol in each budget cycle.
  • Informed and engaged hundreds of parents citywide to take action at District, city and state levels on behalf of their public schools;
  • Develop parent leaders who have: testified at education hearings and commissions; set up education forums at their schools, met with elected officials, written letters to the editor, and acted as spokespeople for the media.
  • Led a June 2012 no confidence vote by over 50 parent groups that raised attention to District budget cuts and lobbying from third party entities.
  • Called for community-based budget hearings which have been held annually since January 2008;
  • Spearheaded a June 2007 no confidence vote by parents groups that precipitated top leadership changes, restored 100 teachers, and eliminated split grades as District policy.
  • Led active media campaigns to build public will and bring attention to public schools.