Statement: Students deserve an apology – not insults

Last month the School District of Philadelphia hosted a screening of the controversial film “Won’t Back Down” (read Helen Gym’s review of the movie here) shortly after the School Reform Commission took unprecedented action to revoke the teachers’ contract. Students conducted a protest of the film screening. It went downhill from there. According to this video, adults at the screening, including School Reform Commissioner Sylvia Simms, yelled insults at the students. One attendee chanted “Lock them up.” You can view a statement by the Philadelphia Student Union here.  This is our statement. 

As parents of students in the Philadelphia public schools, we were extremely concerned in hearing about remarks made to student protesters by adults in attendance at a School District function last month. Upon viewing the recent videotape published by the Philadelphia Student Union, we believe this incident is an embarrassment to the School Reform Commission and the School District of Philadelphia. At the very least students are owed an apology and the District should re-affirm a policy on appropriate conduct for school leadership.

While some individuals may have been surprised or upset by the student protest, it does not excuse the language used by some adults in attendance at a District family event, nor should it excuse the District from not taking a clear stand on protecting students’ rights and dignity.

We are extremely upset that outrageous remarks like “lock them up” were not immediately shut down and addressed at the meeting by District officials. No one should condone a school-to-prison mentality demonstrated in such comments directed toward youth – least of all District officials. After all, if students were asked to leave for inappropriate conduct, those individuals yelling “lock them up” at the very least should have been told to leave as well.Continue reading “Statement: Students deserve an apology – not insults”

A Willful, Consistent, and Pervasive Underfunding of Our Public Schools

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Statement in Support of the Lawsuit against Pennsylvania’s Governor, General Assembly, and Department of Education for the Willful, Consistent and Pervasive Underfunding of Public Education

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Parents United for Public Education fully supports the lawsuit filed today in Commonwealth Court challenging Pennsylvania’s system for financing public education. We applaud the individual students, families, and organizational plaintiffs who have stepped forward to take necessary action against a state that has violated its own constitutional guarantee of a “thorough and efficient” system of public education for all children.  The plaintiffs in the suit assert what parents across Pennsylvania have known for years:  that our state has willfully, consistently, and pervasively underfunded our public schools to levels of deprivation that shock the conscience and demand remedy from the courts.

Pennsylvania’s state contribution to local school district budgets is well below national norms.  While the national average state contribution to district budgets is 44%, Pennsylvania’s contribution is only 34%.  Only nine states nationwide contribute a smaller average percentage to school district budgets.  Furthermore, as one of only three states across the nation without a fair funding formula, Pennsylvania’s allocation of its funds favors the politically connected and compounds inequities among districts.   The Education Law Center has found that low-income public schools spend $3,000 less per student than their wealthier counterparts, amounting to $75,000 less per 25-student classroom, yet low-income districts contain many more students likely to have higher needs due to poverty, English Language Learner status, or disability.

Not only have poorer districts borne the brunt of the state’s arbitrary cuts but, as newly released research makes clear, districts with high percentages of white students receive more funding than districts at similar income levels but with more racially diverse populations.  No matter the intent, the result of the state’s refusal to fund responsibly has been an allocation system that is effectively racist.

The consequences for children have been enormous.  Last year, Parents United for Public Education and the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia collected and filed 825 formal complaints against the state department of education detailing shocking educational deficiencies that we believe violated the Pennsylvania State Code.  As we witness our children’s schools deprived of essential supplies, required personnel, an adequate numbers of qualified teachers, the required range of courses, and basic facilities maintenance, we can see how Pennsylvania proves every day the destructiveness of its current approach to school funding.

Furthermore, Pennsylvania has modified existing educational standards and adopted new ones recently, which it defines as measuring  student educational success, but it has not provided the resources necessary to implement and achieve them.  Over the past several years of budget cuts, standardized test results chart an unprecedented scope of decline in every tested area and for every grade.  Students across the state are not meeting these new standards because the state has not adequately supported them.

For these reasons and many more, Parents United gives our wholehearted support to this lawsuit, and we urge the Commonwealth Court to take swift action in finding for the plaintiffs and righting these unconstitutional, and unconscionable, wrongs.

 

Read more about the District’s budget struggle.

Why we vote: Voting has the power to restore

We vote collageVoting day is today November 4 . Polls are open 7 a.m.-8 p.m. (Find your poll location here).

By all accounts the Pennsylvania gubernatorial race for the first time, will hinge primarily on how voters feel Governor Tom Corbett has served the Commonwealth’s public schools, its children, and the communities who support them. This is a historic race, not because of who will occupy the Governor’s seat, but because this race was led by parents, educators and the vast majority of Pennsylvanians and Philadelphians who see our public schools as a right and a societal obligation, not a privilege or a “choice.” All of us at Parents United are voting today to exercise our rights and our voice. Here’s why we vote today. Tell us why you do!

Kendra Brooks, mother of four children, grandmother, Steel Elementary School SAC president, lifelong voter

IMG_1472It saddens me that AUSTERITY has been the formula used to further break down struggling communities.

It saddens me that issues like corporate tax breaks take precedence over fair wages for working families.

It saddens me that, instead of providing adequate staffing, they move to privatize public schools.

It saddens me to know that MY children’s school lost 27 staff in the last 4 years and gained 3 additional grades.

It saddens me go into a library with boxed books and no librarians.

It saddens me to know that my daughter’s roster was changed in October because they lost teachers.

Most of all it saddens me that Republicans try to make me feel that it’s my fault.

To that I say:  Not again.  I will vote, and I will rally up my neighbors and friends to vote.

I vote because MY VOTE COUNTS.Continue reading “Why we vote: Voting has the power to restore”

This happened today: Bodine High loses teachers, cancels physics

This is what “leveling” means in Philly public schools. It means the District refuses to hire needed staff so schools lose teachers to send to other schools seven weeks into the school year. What difference does a teacher make? Check out what happened when Bodine High School for International Affairs (one of Philadelphia’s “innovative” global schools by the way) lost two teachers.

Bodine High
(Photo: Helen Gym via Twitter)