VICTORY! Parents United’s “Give Kids a Free Ride” Campaign results in transportation preserved, $53 million in city funds devoted to essential programs in schools, and oversight in School District
Let’s face it. A few months ago, the conversation around our schools was in shambles with a District advocacy machine Protect Philly Ed largely using the tactics of fear and brinksmanship to urge parents to random actions against the state. Then YOU got involved, and we helped set priorities for our schools: full-day kindergarten, free transportation for children, restoring cuts to schools. We lobbied the city for more funds. But we also demanded transparency, new priorities at the District, oversight and new leadership.
As a result, we not only saw more funds go to schools, we saw renewed energy around establishing parent priorities, challenging the District’s spending practices, and serious oversight. In June, the Mayor and State signed a Memorandum of Understanding that would require the District to share information publicly about many issues requested by parents. The MOU also requires the District to follow a five year financial plan, another achievement championed by Parents United.
The victory of course is bittersweet. We are facing the loss of thousands of staff next year, dozens of schools are slated for closing or consolidation, and we desperately need new leadership at the top – with no golden parachutes or buyouts. We need an active and independent parent voice like yours now more than ever.
- Blankenburg Drew Dunbar Fitler Gideon Harrison L.P. Hill Levering Nebinger Overbrook Elementary T.M. Peirce Pepper
- Shaw Sheppard Sheridan West E.M. Stanton Waring A. Wilson S.A. Douglas FitzSimons Benjamin Franklin
- Furness (with students sent to South Philadelphia) Philadelphia Military Academy at Leeds (or the Academy at Elverson)
- Randolph Skills Center (with students sent to Dobbins) Rhodes Robeson (with students sent to Sayre)
- Superintendent Arlene Ackerman ”saves” kindergarten - and in the process undermines the Mayor.
- The following week the State and City establish a groundbreaking Memorandum of Understanding, requiring the District to be more transparent around critical areas like school closings and forces the District into five year planning agreements pushed for by parents.
- City Council passes a $53 million tax package to deliver more funds to schools, targeting reduced class size, accelerated schools and early childhood education.
- Parents United’s “Give Kids a Free Ride” campaign generates more than 2,000 signatures and results in the preservation of transportation as well.
- Parents United and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers launch an advertising campaign to focus attention on the District priorities.
- Read Helen Gym’s June 19th Inquirer op-ed here: “Quick fixes don’t work, our schools need new leaders”
How do we get there?
CALL CITY COUNCIL: Support either the property tax or soda tax
Parents United members headed to SEPTA on Thurs., May 26 to testify. SEPTA General Manager Joe Casey and his finance team met with parents and discussed the situation. SEPTA established their commitment to the free transpass program and hailed it as a national model that they want to maintain. They explained that the District receives a 100% reimbursement for the program in the following year. SEPTA’s GM says they have a meeting with school officials the following morning and expect to resolve the situation. District releases a statement that afternoon backing off the idea of a $26 million “savings” explaining that they always meant it to be a one year savings. Helen Gym contacts School District CFO Michael Masch, who admits to it being a one year savings only. On Friday Inquirer reports that a deal is close (read it here). Way to go parents!!!
May 23, 2011
- Mon., May 23rd: City Hall Lobby Day. Meet on the third floor at the northeast elevators. Let’s tell Council parents’ priorities!
- Wed., May 25th: Public testimony at City Council.
- Thurs., May 26th: SEPTA board meeting. Let’s tell SEPTA that they need to support free transportation for all school age students in the city.
TAKE ACTION FOR OUR KIDS!
- Ensure full-day kindergarten.
- Restore free transportation for all school-age students.
- Restore the 29% cut in each school’s discretionary funds.
- Impose a moratorium on all non-essential contracts, hiring of personnel, and start-up/expansion of new programs and initiatives.
- Restore the District’s share of property tax revenue from 55% to 60%.
- Wed., May 25th, 1:30-3 p.m., City Council budget hearings on the School District: Call 215-686-3407. Can’t make it in the middle of a workday afternoon? Call and demand an evening session!
- Thurs, May 26th, 3 p.m., SEPTA board meeting, 1234 Market Street: Email us if you’re able to come!
- Tues., May 31st, 5 p.m. School Reform Commission meeting to pass the FY2012 budget: Call 215-400-4500 by 4:30 p.m. Monday
- Read Helen Gym’s City Council testimony: No blank check bailout for the District
- Read Helen Gym’s blog post on continued District contracting:“District’s $8 million slush fund is why we need more than political theater”
- Read Parents United’s FOIA request on District contracts.
- Read Helen Gym’s analysis of Central Office staffing: Is the District padding its books?
- Read our Memo to City Council: “Questions City Council should ask the District”
- Read Tuesday’s Philadelphia Inquirer story which previews the Council budget hearings on schools and mentions our petition