Parents United for Public Education is an independent citywide collective of public school parents who are focused on creating an open and transparent budget process that reflects the real input of parent voices and places a fiscal priority on academic achievement and accountability in the classroom. We believe that a force of vigilant and engaged parents are the key to substantive and sustainable education reform. We are committed to providing information to parents about issues relevant to the budget, mobilizing parents to take an active role in controlling district-wide budget issues impacting their schools, and lobbying civic and elected officials at the local and state level to improve public school funding and to demand academic achievement, accountability and public engagement.

Parents United has a several hundred member listserve, and is closely connected to parent organizations or active parents at over 20 schools who are committed to mobilizing when action is needed. We work in alliance with more than 20 education organizations, community organizations, non-profits and coalitions who serve diverse constituencies and broad geographic regions of the district.
 
Parents United members are unified under the following goals:
  • Establish a baseline guarantee for quality and equitable schools: Ensure that every school is a quality school with adequate funding and services (including quality teachers and supports, art/music/science curricula, healthy fresh food, safe and adequate facilities, and free transportation).  
  • Reduce class size and support small school efforts.  
  • Empower parents in the budget process to set and monitor District initiatives.  
  • Improve accountability and ensure oversight of private contractors. 
  • Enforce an ethical and transparent decision-making process.  
  • Create a parent-led grassroots lobby for improved state and local school funding. 

Since Spring 2006, Parents United for Public Education has been at the forefront in the effort to both secure additional funding for the Philadelphia public schools and to better manage the money going to key reform initiatives. Our major accomplishments include:

Funding

  • Successfully lobbied City Council to deliver $53 million in permanent news funds from the city. (June 2011)
  • Successfully lobbied the Philadelphia Parking Authority to deliver $25 million in revenue to the City and $2.2 million to the schools in June 2008 as well as establish a permanent and increasing revenue stream for the public schools. In the FY11Distrct budget, that amount now totals $7.5 million annually. Prior to Parents United's campaign, the Parking Authority had neither met its $25 million commitment to the City nor had it delivered any funding to the schools since 2004 (May 2008).
  • Successfully lobbied to have the City make a one-time commitment to assume $8 million in district expenses become a long-term agreement for $5 million in shared city/district services (Spring 2008).
  • Successfully lobbied for over $20 million in permanent new funds from the city by launching a 9-month campaign to increase city support to the public schools through a real estate tax transfer (Public Education Reinvestment Act). Parents petitioned, lobbied, testified and successfully overrode a threatened mayoral veto to support the act (June 2007).
Academic Reform
  • Spring 2011: Succeeded in establishing full-day kindergarten and transportation as essentials. Lobbied to concentrate new funds into reduced class size and transportation.
  • Spring 2008: Called upon the District to redo all school budgets to include an additional $18+ million for reduced class size and art and music teaching.
  • Spring 2007 and 2008: Diverted $10 million for the addition of 100 teachers to eliminate split grades.
  • Successfully called upon the District to maintain the multiple acceptances policy for high school admissions (November 2007).
  • Established lower class size and art and music as "must haves", eliminated forced split grades as District policy, and made librarians, nurses and counselors top priorities for the School Reform Commission (September 2007).
  • Continue to call for a "baseline" school budget that would identify minimum elements of a quality educational program for all schools and address equity concerns around staffing, programs and funds.

Accountability and Transparency

  • Spring 2011: Campaigned to raise attention around school district choices, highlighting executive salaries, testing, contracting, summer school expenses and expansion of new initiatives in the midst of a budget crisis. Our FOIA request on District contracts was published and used by City Council and the Mayor's office to divert more funds back into classroom and school based programs and needs.
  • Launched a successful campaign to remove 85 politically-connected employees from the District payroll. Parents United found that salaries had increased by 18% in one year alone, and that over 40% of the employees were ward and committee leaders who worked off-site and without supervision. The City agreed to assume the employees onto the City payroll in 2009, although the District still pays a $4 million annual fee to the City to cover the BRT employee salaries.
  • June 2008: Successfully called upon the district to terminate contracts of private management companies that had failed to turn around schools. Two-thirds of privately managed school contracts (EMOs) were either terminated or placed on one-year probation with close scrutiny of management fees. In June 2011, the District closed all remaining EMO schools, ending a near 10-year experiment that largely did not change things for schools.
  • Called for public accountability on major contracts, resulting in the reassessment of tens of millions of dollars a year including a $6 million reduction in the District’s largest contract for private disciplinary contractor Community Education Partners (June 2008) and the severing of the District's $18.5 million food service contract with Aramark (Fall 2007).  CEP lost its contract with the District in 2010, amid declining funds and dissatisfaction with CEP's performance, both factors that Parents United had proclaimed as reasons for CEP's troubles.
  •  June 2007: Limited renewal of private managers to one year, reduced EMO management fees by one-third, and forced EMOs to serve English language learners and special education students.
  • Informed parents about school by school budgets by working with the Mayor to have school budgets posted online (June 2007).
  • Demanded a more transparent SRC process that resulted in evening meetings, more frequent hearings, online school budgets, and awareness of sunshine law violations.
  • In fiscal year 2007, brought out Mayor John Street, future Mayor Michael Nutter and other city officials to SRC hearings to give testimony and establish political support for the schools.

Public Engagement

  • Our "Give Kids a Free Ride" campaign to preserve transportation for all school-age students resulted in 2,000 petition signatures to City Hall and the School District, and resulted in the preservation of the program.
  • Provided an independent parent advocacy voice for quality public education.
  • Informed and engaged hundreds of parents citywide to take action at District, city and state levels on behalf of their public schools.
  • Called for community based budget hearings first held in January 2008.
  • Spearheaded a June 2007 "no confidence" vote by parents groups that precipitated top leadership changes, restored 100 teachers, and eliminated split grades as District policy.
  • Led active media campaigns to build public will and bring attention to public schools.