In anticipation of tomorrow’s announcement of dozens of school closings, Parents United for Public Education posted this statement. We will be attending the PCAPS rally at the School District, 440 N. Broad Street, tomorrow at 4 p.m. The District will announce the school closings list at a 2 p.m. press conference.
Parents United statement on pending school closings
Parents United for Public Education believes that schools closings should be a public dialogue not a backroom deal. We believe that they should be part of a broader plan around facilities modernization with a clear eye toward strengthening the resources and opportunities for District-managed public schools. Toward that end, Parents United has worked consistently to focus attention on resources, investments and a broad participatory engagement process to transform, sustain and build quality public schools.
National studies have shown that Districts do not improve academically or financially through mass school closings. Community groups nationwide have formally complained that mass school closings have had disparate racial impact. The District has failed to demonstrate what it will do differently from other cities to address those concerns.
Instead, the school closings process has been dishonest and disrespectful to the broader Philadelphia community and especially parents, students and families who have been blindsided by the pending announcement. Parents have been left in the dark on the machinations of the school closings process. We’ve asked for data, maps, metrics and information for more than two years and have received almost nothing. We’ve asked for financial data. We watched the school district approve a massive charter expansion in the spring at a projected cost of $139 million over five years while insisting neighborhood schools close that financial hole.
We do not have confidence in the process and metrics by which schools have been chosen. The process has revealed flawed data, questionable assessments of academic excellence and ignored the effects of inadequate resources on neighborhood schools. The school district has failed to indicate an investment in public education to assure families that our children will not end up in schools weakened by disinvestment or in worse shape than the schools they left. Meanwhile special needs and ELL students are among the many constituencies whose needs are ignored and often made worse in any school closings process.
We feel strongly that private individuals have leveraged money and access to influence which schools may or may not be on the school closings list. Last week we filed a complaint with the Ethics Board charging that private individuals and a prominent foundation had hired the Boston Consulting Group to lobby on their behalf around, among other things, identifying specific schools to target for closure. BCG has had unprecedented access to building information, financial data and high level decisionmakers while parents have had to settle for limited information in public forums. When the School District does not establish clear boundaries and rules around ethics and lobbying, it is impossible for the public to determine in whose interests these school closings represent.
This is not transparent. It is not honest and it is not a legitimate process that parents can support.