The SRC’s vote May 30th stripped away any pretense that next year’s budget has a child-centered, education-focused mission. Gone from the budget are core educational responsibilities: the arts, guidance counselors, books & supplies, librarians, sports, and extracurricular activities and clubs. The budget hurt every single school in every neighborhood across the city, from the most struggling and most deserving of schools to the highest performing magnets.
One lone voice stood out at 440 on an otherwise dark day.
That voice belonged to Commissioner Joseph Dworetzky. Appointed under Governor Rendell, Commissioner Dworetzky cast the sole dissenting vote on the budget, openly questioning whether schools could be called schools under this scenario and suggesting the SRC could do more to protect children’s education.
Unlike the other commissioners, Dworetzky demonstrated a willingness to discuss his thinking on the budget publicly. None of the other commissioners gave any rationale other than a defense of their “legal obligations.” This is not the first time Commissioner Dworetzky has earned the admiration of the public. During the critical school closings vote, he took time to study each school in depth, ask questions and make arguments based on each school’s needs and history. He has consistently raised careful and probing questions regarding the funding and expansion of charter schools.
We want to publicly thank Commissioner Dworetzky for modelling what meaningful public debate looks like and to thank him for his past engagement. Of course, this thanks is not an endorsement of the way in which the SRC process is set up; we wish he and others would go farther. But we want to thank Commissioner Joseph Dworetzky for his continued commitment to an open and public discussion of substantive issues facing the SRC, even when he stands alone in opposition to SRC actions. ~ Gerald Wright, co-founder, Parents United for Public Education
Dear Commissioner Dworetzky:
On behalf of parents, advocates, and the leadership collective of Parents United for Public Education, we want to thank you for your demonstrated willingness to publicly debate substantive issues that the School Reform Commission has faced recently. When tough decisions have come before the School Reform Commission, you have given genuine consideration to the issue at hand and have demonstrated a singular ability to express a thoughtful perspective. You have offered suggestions for further dialogue or additional considerations before votes are taken on challenging proposals, most notably the budget that passed last week and the recent vote on school closings.
As you know, parents were deeply disappointed and disturbed by the passage of the budget proposal approved by the School Reform Commission last week. The School Reform Commission may have met the general framework of its obligation to produce a budget, but we believe it failed on the substance of that obligation. The budget proposal that passed 4-1 last week challenges the most optimistic supporter of public education to remain hopeful for the School District of Philadelphia. Yet there are many parents, students, community members, and elected officials who continue to fight for additional financial and material resources for our public schools.
We firmly believe that more transparency and openness should be normal business at the School District of Philadelphia and the School Reform Commission. Sadly, that does not appear to be the case.
In this imperfect process we encourage you to remain thoughtful and deliberate; and to continue to debate and deliberate publicly. We deeply appreciate all your work.
Gerald Wright and Helen Gym
Parents United for Public Education
Tomika Anglin, parent
Maurice Jones, parent
Rebecca Poyourow, parent
Cathy Roccia-Meier, parent
Cecelia Thompson, parent
Sabra Townsend, parent
James Wright, parent
Temwa Wright, parent