January 16, 2008
On this page:
- Parents United's accomplishments in 2007
- New initiative: Healthy foods committee
- Alert: Graduation Competency Exams
- Upcoming events including complete schedule of budget hearings
Happy New Year! 2007 marked a historic year when public school parents rose to the forefront in demanding new school priorities and funding. Remember this time a year ago? The District faced a projected $180 million deficit; a verbal tug-of-ward between the District and City, and the consequences of a chaotic school opening with hundreds of teacher cuts, split grades and leveling that devastated numerous schools.
Today, in the words of our new Mayor, it is "a new day," a new time, new leadership – and parents, ordinary public school parents helped make a lot of it happen. In 2007 alone, Parents United for Public Education and others:
- Lobbied for more than $20 million in permanent new dollars from the city;
- Established lower class size and art and music as a "must have" in every school, and put librarians, nurses and counselors as a top priority for the School Reform Commission;
- Won millions of dollars to the City and Schools from the Philadelphia Parking Authority;
- Limited contracting, including reduced fees for private managers of schools, supported the termination of the Aramark food service contract, and called for accountability for alternative education contracts;
- Organized dozens of schools in a vote of no confidence in the Spring 2007 budget that resulted in leadership changes and the promise to eliminate split grades across the District.
- Pushed for a more open and responsive School District and
Commission by encouraging greater community/parent engagement efforts, evening meetings, community based hearings, etc.
Today our work is more important than ever. Among the issues we face:
- Will the legislature move on a commissioned study that shows that 95% of the school districts in Pennsylvania are underfunded according to nationally accepted norms?
- Will our City Council and Mayor take on education as a primary initiative and expand public hearings, make a presence at the SRC, and improve local funding sources?
- Will the School Reform Commission address its failure to improve classroom achievement (read about it here) by spending more time investing in schools rather than EMOs and other contracts?
- Will our schools and our kids feel those changes in our classroom tomorrow?
Parents United promises to be a strong and conscientious voice for parents on issues that matter. Read some of our updates below and expect more in the coming weeks.
Parents United starts new initiative: Healthy Foods Committee
Parents United is initiating a Healthy Foods Committee to determine the best ways to change the actual food our children are served and the procurement process for those foods (supporting local, organic farmers/growers in our communities). The next meeting is January 23 at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, 20th and Arch Streets, from 4-6 p.m. Email us for more information.
ALERT: Graduation Competency Exams
This week the State Board of Education is expected to pass graduation competency assessments (GCAs). Every single high school student in the state is responsible for taking ten end-of-course examinations. Each and every student will be required to pass six of the ten, including English, math and science. There are no exemptions for ELL or special needs students, although limited accommodations are available. More information here, including Harrisburg hearings on January 16 and 17.
School Reform Commission hearing, Wednesday, January 16: A number of schools, organizations and parents deeply concerned about the Corrective Action 2 schools and private management are expected to testify. We ask people to come out and testify about prioritizing academic quality and investment over contracts. If you can testify, call 215-400-4040 by 4 p.m. today to get on the docket (but expect it to be crowded).
Community budget hearings: Since the past summer, Parents United has made it a priority for the District to get out budget information to communities so parents and schools can prioritize their needs as the budget process is happening. Please check out the District's website here, and please prioritize the budget hearings around the city as an opportunity to demand what you think your school and child needs.
- January 29, 6 p.m. - William Penn High (Center City Region)
- January 31, 7 p.m. - Gratz High school (North Region)
- February 5, 6 p.m. - Edison High School (East Region)
- February 7, 7 p.m. - Overbrook High School (West Region)
- February 12, 6 p.m. - Leeds Middle School (Northwest Region)
- February 13, 7 p.m. - South Philadelphia High School (South Region)
- February 19, 6 p.m. - Martin Luther King High School (EMO Region)
- February 21, 7 p.m. - Northeast High School (Northeast Region)