Spring 2011 budget campaign

July 2011

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.

Join Parents United and let’s build a strong voice for our schools!
PARENTS UNITED AND PHILADELPHIA FEDERATION OF TEACHERS JOIN TOGETHER on an ad campaign to prioritize our teachers, our children and our classrooms!

On June 23, Parents United and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers launched a media campaign to raise attention to the loss of teachers in our classrooms and our schools. Our print ads launched in the Philadelphia Daily News, Metro, City Paper, and Philadelphia Weekly. Our radio ads are currently running as well. Help us make a better school by calling the SRC at 215-400-4010 and tell them to redo the budget, restore cuts to schools and no buyouts for high paid executives!
URGENT! Philadelphia Public School Notebook publishes confidential document listing dozens of school closings/consolidations. Among the schools listed are:
  • 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)
June 2011
  • 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?
The past week’s headlines have been dominated by a should we or shouldn’t we approach to local funding of schools. The answer is clear.
YES! The City needs to increase funds for our schools. We have not significantly increased local funding since 2007. If we are complaining that the state is bringing us back down to 2008 funding levels, how can the City be left off the hook?
YES! We want oversight as a condition, if not a precursor, to funding our city schools. The District must ensure that these funds will go directly into essential services, programs and restoration of teachers and school discretionary funds rather than the propping up of pet programs and initiatives District administrators. We also need a long-term financial plan for the District to avoid a year-to-year approach that does more to play games with numbers than assure fiscal stability.
NO! It’s wrong to send the message that such funding will not hurt the city or can be painless, as some City Council members hope. We will see our taxes raised, we must limit programs such as tax abatements, we may even lose services. In exchange, we demand that these schools are under leadership that puts public stewardship as its top priority, and that parents have a voice at the decisionmaking table.

CALL CITY COUNCIL: Support either the property tax or soda tax


May 31, 2011

(Photo: Chestnut Hill PATCH)
Dozens of parents testify at the School Reform Commission meeting urging the District to rethink its priorities. The budget passes 3-1 with the “no” vote from Commission Johnny Irizarry, who echoes parent concerns about the budget and its impact on children and classrooms.
May 27, 2011

(Photo: Metro)

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 25, 2011
More than 100 people are scheduled to testify today at City Council. Council heard from parents, school principals, students, concerned citizens and advocates all across the city. Youth United for Change held a rally outside City Hall with almost 200 young people. Last week only 12 people had registered. Kudos to all the amazing parents, students and concerned citizens out there for our schools! Read Helen Gym’s testimony here.
May 24, 2011
City Hall was jam packed today with District officials, parents and students, Parents United wrote this memo to City Council members urging them to ask the District pointed questions about their priorities and spending practices. Among them: $4.7 million on summer school textbooks, Saturday school at the Promise Academies, contracts for media relations, executive salaries, and District millions spent on testing and curriculum. Read the memo here.

May 23, 2011

Read about our City Hall lobby day and petition in Tuesday’s Inquirer
May 22, 2011
The District budget threatens to eliminate yellow school buses and free transpasses for all public, private and parochial school students in the city. More than 600 people have signed our petition to Council that it needsto boost itsfunding to schools by supporting free transportation for all school-age students. Tell Council: It’s our kids who deserve the free ride!
Let’s keep the heat on!
  • 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.
May 18, 2011


In two weeks, the School District intends to pass a budget that eliminates full-day kindergarten, all yellow buses and free transpasses, and cuts 29% of each school’s local funds, resulting in the loss of 3800 personnel. Meanwhile, the SRC continues to spend millions on contracts. Parents are working hard to change the governor’s budget. We need a responsible SRC that acts to protect the public interest.
We must take action now! It’s not business as usual.
Parents United for Public Education is an all volunteer, independent collective of parents which believes in quality schools and responsible funding. State, city and district leaders must:
  1. Ensure full-day kindergarten.
  2. Restore free transportation for all school-age students. 
  3. Restore the 29% cut in each school’s discretionary funds.
  4. Impose a moratorium on all non-essential contracts, hiring of personnel, and start-up/expansion of new programs and initiatives.
  5. Restore the District’s share of property tax revenue from 55% to 60%.
Please organize en masse for the May 31st School Reform Commission hearing where the FY2012 budget will be passed.
  • 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
Ten phone calls a day qualifies as a major issue for any council office. The message: 1) Ensure free transportation for all public school students; 2) Increase funds to the schools; and 3) Help lobby the District to restore the 29% cut to each individual school’s funds.
Parents United City Hall lobbying day: Monday, May 23, 12-2 p.m.: Meet us on the third floor of City Hall at the northeast side of the elevators. Call Helen at 215-808-1400 with any questions.
Frank DiCicco: 215-686-3458
Anna Verna: 215-686-3412
Jannie Blackwell: 215-686-3418
Curtis Jones: 215-686-3416
Darrell Clarke: 215-686-3442
Joan Krajewski: 215-686-3444
Maria Quinones-Sanchez: 215-686-3448
Donna Reed Miller: 215-686-3424
Marian Tasco: 215-686-3454
Brian O’Neill: 215-686-3422
Wilson Goode, Jr.: 215-686-3414
James Kenney: 215-686-3450
Frank Rizzo: 215-686-3440
William Greenlee: 215-686-3446
Blondell Reynolds Brown: 215-686-3438
The School Reform Commission is an appointed body which should provide fiscal and managerial oversight of the District.
Send emails to SRC Commissioners Robert Archie, Chair; Johnny Irizarry; Denise Armbrister, and Joseph Dworetzky: eodavis@philasd.org, johnnyi@exchange.upenn.edu, druggiano@phila.k12.pa.us, ffrederick@phila.k12.pa.us, nmills@philasd.org
The Mayor’s Office of Education is the liaison between City Hall and the School District.
Lori Shorr, Chief Education Officer: 215-686-0333, lori.shorr@phila.gov
More resources:

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