Back to School Toolkit



Sometimes this is what it means to be a Philadelphia public school parent. It’s not enough that we take care of our children and our families, our personal and professional lives, and volunteer and support our schools. It means that in times of crisis, we pick up the mantle of democracy and set the priorities straight for our elected and appointed officials. That time is now.

A stunning budget crisis of unimaginable proportions and a District and city and state misled by all the wrong priorities has us facing down perhaps the most significant challenge to public education we’ve seen since the 2001 state takeover that once promised Philadelphia parents the world. Every single school in this city, from the most struggling to our most elite magnet school, has been impacted by a devastating budget decision that has stripped away basic staff, resources and supplies.

Every school year brings hope and potential – and more opportunities for communities to become better involved. That’s why Parents United for Public Education created this Back to School Toolkit for your next HSA or community meeting or Back to School night.


  • Back to School FAQ: What’s going on in the schools? Use our quick FAQ handout for parents on the latest in Harrisburg and school funding.
  • File a formal complaint with the PA Dept. of Education: This campaign gets parents, staff, students and community members to document insufficiencies in our schools and to demand that the PA Dept. of Education investigate.
  • What’s this complaint process all about? Use our FAQ:File a complaint  as a handout for parents.
  • Organizing your school: Find data resources, target your legislators, form a phone tree, connect with other parents and teachers, and get started on building a visible parent voice for your school.
  • Target your local elected officials: City Council, the Mayor’s office, state representatives. Each one has a grave responsibility to fix this situation. They hear everyday from specialized interests who DON’T want them to make tough decisions on our schools. They need to hear from PARENTS as an important and vocal constituency demanding that they support District-managed public education.
  • A basic funding plan for the City: We need major structural funding stability from the city. It’s a critical buffer in a state where Philadelphia is subjected to the whims of the reigning political party. We’re concerned that proportional city investment in schools has declined even after two consecutive property tax hikes. We need a school funding guarantee from our city leaders.
  • Voter registration: Because November is our chance to vote in a governor who prioritizes public education. Ask us for voter registration forms. Deadline for the November gubernatorial election is October 3.
  • Tips for Special and Gifted Education


2 thoughts on “Back to School Toolkit

  1. This organization really grabbed my attention given the fact we are in the same page. I have children in the city school distric. One child of mines got caught in the system designed for our youths to fail. The school district data system have our records messed up resulting in my son being placed which I am not standing for at all. My son been in placement for 3 months and everyone act like this is okay for a judge to take an innocent youth from his home and family because the district made some bad mistakes. I have the proof but everyone says it doesn’t matter and and judge said he don’t want to hear it. They brought up my past and told me I need to move forward and they used my past against me and told me to get over it.I have always been involved with my children’s learning and I always supported the schools, even now I am still passionate about helping our children prepare for their future. I need help but I am also available to help this organization reach the needs of our students.

  2. This came to us via email through our website: From parent Cheryl McFadden:


    Part 1 We’re off and running and still not listening

    After a brief respite to deal with family issues , I am returning to the battlefield in the war against public education. I have once again started attending the gut-wrenching School Reform Commission (SRC) meetings. We, the public, are unable to ask questions. We, the public, are allowed 3 minutes for testimony. If we dare go over the allotted 180 seconds we are told our time is up. If a commissioner responds to our testimony and we attempt to reply the microphone is cut off.

    These autocratic measures are proof of why we need a democratically-elected school board. There is a non-binding Resolution being considered by both City Council and the Mayor to elect a locally-controlled school board. Be aware that local control means the School Board is either appointed by the Mayor or elected by the voting public. In Philadelphia the Mayor has always appointed school board members. When I think of all the rumored mayoral candidates my stomach starts lurching.

    Part 2 The new commissioner is welcomed and the spending begins

    Marjorie Neff, newly-retired principal of Masterman (for out-of-state readers an elite district-run school) received numerous comments thanking her for “sacrificing her retirement to join the SRC.” We’ll see what role she chooses to play as she is the first educator to serve on the SRC.

    Back to the meeting. Donyall Dickey, newly-appointed Chief Academic Support Officer, informed us that the District is going to be serviced by some out-of-town experts (ed. -because we have none here in the District) on “powerful new tools” (ed. – so we will need fewer teachers as these are all technology-based). The Districts’ saviors…oops…consultants are California-based ALEKS -Assessment and Learning in Knowledge Spaces-(“ALEKS uses adaptive questioning to quickly and accurately determine exactly what a student knows and doesn’t know in a course. ALEKS then instructs the student on the topics she is most ready to learn. As a student works through a course, ALEKS periodically reassesses the student to ensure that topics learned are also retained.”).

    Next up is CK-12 also based in California (…“ CK-12 aims to reduce the impact of educational resources needed (by teachers or by classrooms) by leveraging good teachers, and when teachers are poor, burned out or not available, CK-12 will provide direct access to students for their own learning.”). More teacher bashing. How about ensuring a fair and equitable funding formula?

    Part 3 The new transformation plan known as the School Redesign Initiative

    Every SRC meeting presents a slew of Resolutions. Chairman Green has a policy of calling for votes on blocks of Resolutions. Tonight he lumped the 77 items into five blocks for a yes or no vote. There was no discussion. The one recusal was from commissioner Feather Houston. Her daughter works for the Barra Foundation that gave $555,000(Resolution A36 )to fund the School Redesign Initiative (SRI). For an analysis of this thinly-disguised “transformation” project read Lisa Haver’s editorial

    (ed. Last spring two district-run schools were given the option to either remain with the district or be turned over to a charter operator. Both schools voted to remain with the district. The District learned from this error of allowing parents to vote and created the SRI.)

    The SRC voted to accept $550,000 for SRI. Supposedly between 2 and 10 school proposals will be selected. They will receive a $30,000 grant for the 2014-2015 school year to develop their proposal. What happens with the rest of the $550,000?

    Part 4 More reasons to pay attention to SRC Resolutions

    * Resolution B11 accepts $103,120 from the Meredith Home & School Association to pay for 2 nurse days and 3 hour noon-time aides. It’s wonderful to see parental involvement but what about the schools that can’t raise money to buy nurse days and other critical staff. Is this really how parents should be supporting their schools by raising money to pay for staff positions?

    * Dr. Hite keeps threatening more teacher layoffs. Why is any money going to TFA when so many teachers have been laid off? Do our children deserve temps instead of experienced educators? Resolution A33 awards $ 27,500 to TFA “to execute, deliver…to hire up to 10 new teachers at the School District…for the 2014-2015 school year”. This money would pay for their “alternative route to certification program.”

    * Resolution A31 $490,000 to hire the Boston-based Community Training and Assistance Center to “coordinate project management for the strategy planning, resource development, and logistical development of the District’s Student Learning Objectives.”

    “As part of the Pennsylvania’s Educator Effectiveness Project… the center will assist schools in developing Student Learning Objectives, the process used to measure and evaluate teachers based on student achievement.”

    * Resolution A32 provides $289,450 to Buffalo-based PLS 3rd Learning “ to develop 11 Professional Development Models and to lead the Facilitators’ Training Institute”. When I was a teacher the most valuable professional development came from colleagues.

    We are in treacherous waters with the piranhas of corporate education circling. Dr. Hite, a graduate of the Broad Superintendent Academy, is carrying out the Broad principles of creating churn at every level of the District (for background on Eli Broad read this article Almost half of the principals have left since last year; teachers are fleeing the District to find more stable employment in suburban districts; support staff, custodial workers, and school police are laid off. Churn. Expect more and fight back. Organizing parents, students, school staff, and the community is the only way to fight back. I always keep in mind what Margaret Mead said

    Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

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