Dear Superintendent Hite:
This year, our schools opened with a lack of resources any educator would have deemed unimaginable and intolerable. You acknowledged the severity of the situation in a recent interview, describing our schools as “functional types of schools” lacking in the “resources that we typically expect in schools.” This is the reason why nearly 800 parents have filed formal complaints with the PA Department of Education documenting massive violations of the state code with regard to educational standards and mandates. By filing these complaints we have pushed responsibility onto the state to adequately fund our schools.
We were glad to see the $45 million restored to the District to respond to these needs; however, we have serious concerns about the priorities and lack of transparency around how the $45 million will be spent. There is no question you must invest in student IEP services, but that still leaves at least $30 million, which should be allocated to classroom learning conditions—the District’s core mission.
However, according to your announcement at the School Report Cards meeting last night, not one extra dollar is going towards teachers to relieve massive overcrowding and split grades across the district. Instead, a number of our schools will be thrown into chaos late in the school year through a leveling process that promises new split grades and maximum class sizes. It is unimaginable that the District could receive $45 million and that a significant number of our schools could actually end up worse off through loss of essential teaching staff. Please do not support such actions.
We are also deeply concerned that $10 million of the $45 million will automatically go to pay for additional students in charter schools, without any indication that this is where the 4,000 students have gone, and especially when charters must abide by enrollment caps.
As parent leaders in the District, we are writing to appeal to you to take a parent-responsive approach to addressing the crisis in our schools. We must prioritize effective teaching and the restoration of guidance counselors. Moreover, we ask that you employ a do-no-further-harm policy for schools.
We ask the following:
- Restore guidance counselors to last year’s levels. The absence of guidance counselors has been the single largest and most consistent complaint of parents across the district especially for students in transitioning grades and for provision of critical emotional and behavioral supports.
- No teaching or staff positions should be removed from schools. Given that we are functioning with bare-bones budgets, schools should be left no worse off in staffing than they were on September 9th.
- No split-grade classrooms anywhere. Split-grade classrooms resulting from budget cuts are a known pedagogical failure, which deprive children of grade-appropriate learning opportunities.
- Hire more teachers for schools with class sizes over the contractual maximums. Children cannot learn effectively in classes of this size.
- Address the urgent situation of school nurse and medical safety of students, beyond the standard of “medical fragility.”
We have many more priorities including librarians, the arts, sports and extra-curricular activities, as well as other programs and services. However, until more funds are available, we place our primary emphasis on the core classroom services listed above.
Rebecca Poyourow, Helen Gym, Robin Roberts, Tonayia Coffer, Tomika Anglin, Maurice Jones, Sabra Townsend and Gerald Wright
Parents United for Public Education
Additional signatories: AMY Northwest HSA, C.W. Henry PTA, Cook-Wissahickon HSA, Dobson HSA, Gompers HSA, Houston HSA, A.S. Jenks HSA, Friends of J.S. Jenks, J.S. Jenks HSA, McCloskey HSA, Overbrook High School HSA, Powel HSA
Maureen Fratantoni, Nebinger HSA President
(list in formation)