Gerald Wright: The SRC has gone too far

Gerald-Parent rally-Oct2014
Parents United founder Gerald Wright speaks at a rally decrying the SRC’s attack on teachers. The rally was organized by Parents United, PCAPs and Action United parents. (photo: PCAPS)

On October 15, parents across the city gathered at 440 to decry the SRC’s decision earlier this month to throw out the teachers’ contract. Parents United for Public Education joined with Action United and PCAPs to organize the rally because we believe that a strong school district works in partnership with its labor force, not at odds with it. Parents across the city believe in collaborating with our teachers for solutions and we are outraged at the District’s unilateral decision to not only end collective bargaining rights, but also put the financial burden on teachers rather than demand just and equitable funding from the state of Pennsylvania and our city. The SRC’s move is one in a long line of non-transparent and dishonest actions that has Philadelphians citywide calling for the end of a state takeover body that has failed any semblance at a public mission. Gerald Wright, a founder of Parents United in 2006, gave this statement on behalf of Parents United for Public Education.

Open Letter

A Monumental Decision without Public Debate;

The SRC has Gone Too Far

 GeraldThe action by the SRC to negate the teachers’ contract is the last straw for an undemocratic group responsible for the publicly funded and socially necessary education endeavor.  This action shows no concern or consideration for public input, involvement, or comment.  This is an example of taxation without representation.  This group is out of control.  It needs to be done away with.

According to the SRC’s rule for comments at its meetings, members of the public who wish to make a comment when the SRC meets must call by 4:30pm the day before the scheduled meeting.  By announcing the meeting on Sunday, it did not provide adequate notice so that parents and others could schedule to make a comment.  And there was no time for public debate.

I believe the SRC meeting at 9:30am on Monday October 6, 2014, was improper.  Whether legal or not, the SRC demonstrated that it is neither transparent, concerned with democratic principles, and that it is too comfortable functioning like a tyrant.

The SRC appears to be taking money from teachers’ personal income to provide principals with a discretionary pot of money to purchase items for their school, which may or may not be direct educational supports for the classroom.

Moreover, I do not agree that teachers should have to pay for their health benefits.  Over the years, in lieu of pay increases, the teachers have bargained for more days off, better benefits, and other items that did not cost cash immediately in the short run.  Just because other workers pay for health benefits, does not mean everyone should.  I understand that my stand is not a popular one.  But why should government entities and school management negotiate ‘goodies’ to save money in the short term, then come back later and blame the workers for their poor management or poor decision making.

Overall, I believe teachers are worth more than they are paid here in Philadelphia and have in recent history been asked to accomplish more with less.  Why has the SRC attempted to make them the target of ire and resentment?  We can teach children with fewer administrators, but we can’t with fewer teachers.

There is a problem to be fixed for sure, but the teachers are not the cause of that problem.  Much of our problem has to do with those in positions of authority treating our children like ‘widgets’ and political fodder instead of sacred vessels for a better future and our immediate obligation.

Gerald Wright is the past president of the JS Jenks Home and School Association and is a co-founder of Parents United for Public Education. He has one child at Jenks and is the father of a June 2014 graduate of Constitution High School.

 

Sept. 20th: Special Education know your rights workshop

Our attorneys at Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia are hosting a day-long special education “boot camp” with everything you need to know to be an advocate and supporter of your special needs child. Appropriate for educators, attorneys and advocates as well. Pay as you go admission for those in need. $100 general admission. $50 webinar. RSVP: Claudette at cbenton@pilcop.org or 267.546.1317.

We sued the PA Dept of Ed. Here’s why we should keep filing complaints

photo
Parents United’s Robin Roberts speaks at a press conference with Sen. Vincent Hughes (far right) to announce the re-opening of http://www.myphillyschools.com and to encourage parents to file complaints.

(File a complaint here!)

As Philadelphia schools open under a second year of Doomsday budget proportions, Parents United for Public Education, the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, Media Mobilizing Project, and State Sen. Vincent Hughes announced the re-launching of the website www.myphillyschools.com and encouraged parents to file formal complaints with the Pennsylvania Dept. of Education if schools lack necessary resources.

Last year, Philadelphia parents filed 825 complaints from more than 90 different schools with the State Dept. of Education. It remains the largest filing in state history.

We believe the complaints helped shake loose more than $45 million in federal money the state was holding in return for teacher union concessions. Much of the $45 million last fall went toward special education services and restoration of some guidance counselors and other school-based personnel. (Let’s also not forget a significant chunk of money also went to pay charter school enrollment increases.) In a handful of cases involving special needs children (who have more specific legal protections), the State ordered the District to provide full-time school nurses.

The complaints also helped us target our advocacy to eliminate some of the worst offenses – like getting a commitment to immediately reduce classroom sizes of greater than 40 students and to nearly eliminate the 100 split grade classrooms which opened last year.

But it’s not enough.

This year schools are short hundreds of staff in special education assistants and noon-time aides. Most personnel – like counselors, nurses, librarians and aides – have not been fully restored to manageable levels. Your voice still matters.Continue reading “We sued the PA Dept of Ed. Here’s why we should keep filing complaints”

Parents United files suit against PA Dept of Ed

(This press release was published by our attorneys at the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia.  Read more about why we filed here. The full filing is published below.)

Philadelphia Parents’ Lawsuit Challenges Failure of PA Dept. of Education

PDE neglects to investigate hundreds of allegations documenting severe effects of underfunding

Philadelphia, Pa. – Today seven Philadelphia School District parents and Parents United for Public Education file a lawsuit in the Commonwealth Court alleging that the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) has violated its legal obligation to investigate allegations of massive curriculum deficiencies in Philadelphia public schools. These plaintiffs are represented by the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia (Law Center).

In September 2013, Philadelphia schools began operating on what District officials themselves described as a “Doomsday Budget.” Soon after, the Law Center, Parents United, and the Media Mobilizing Project launched myphillyschools.com. Through this online portal and through paper filings, Philadelphia parents have submitted over 825 complaints to PDE documenting dire school conditions. PDE, which has governed Philadelphia public schools since 2001, is required to investigate these formal complaints. But after one year, the vast majority of parents have received only a generic form letter or no response at all.

Problems alleged by parents include alarming levels of overcrowding such that teachers can no longer walk between desks to interact with individual students; increasingly limited curricular offerings; a distressing lack of counselors; and squalid and insufficient toilet facilities.Continue reading “Parents United files suit against PA Dept of Ed”

Parents United wins school closings FOIA case (again) but it’s not over yet

(Credit: Jim Bo
(Cartoonist: Jim Borgman)

10septThis summer the Court of Common Pleas upheld our right to make public the list of 60 schools identified for closure by the Boston Consulting Group as part of the District’s 2012 “Transformation Plan. ” This is the second victory on this case for Parents United and our lawyers at the Public Interest Law Center. In Spring 2013 the Pennsylvania Open Records Office ruled in our favor that the District had no right to keep this information confidential because it could not prove it had not shared the information with third parties, namely the donors who had contributed to the Transformation Plan.

No matter to District officials. They’ve already indicated their intent to appeal in order to protect this list. My guess is that they will shoot for PA Supreme Court if they lose again.

You’d think that the District would simply share the information. After all, it’s been two years – what do they have to hide?

Turns out: Quite a bit.Continue reading “Parents United wins school closings FOIA case (again) but it’s not over yet”