Media alerts and updates - February 2008


February 27, 2008

ALERT! School budgets released this week

All schools receive their 2008-2009 budgets this week. As a parent, you have a right to view your school’s budget. Here’s a checklist of things to ask about:

  • Teacher allocation: The SRC has made lower class size in grades K-3 a top priority. Did your school lose any teachers? Did it gain enough teachers to balance out overcrowding?
  • Split grades: The SRC has pledged to eliminate split grades across the district. Please ensure that any budget changes will not result in a split grade unless pre-determined by the school for non-financial reasons.
  • Arts/Music: The SRC has declared both art and music instruction a “must have” for every school. Did you gain an art or music teacher? Did your school lose anything in this area?
  • Nurses, counselors, librarians: The SRC has defined these as priority areas. Your school should not have lost anything on this front (even if it didn't gain anything).
  • “Discretionary” funds: These are additional dollars beyond staff allotment. Did your level of discretionary funding change at all? If yes, were you given any notification or explanation as to why and what the consequences may be for your school?
  • Deseg funding: The District warned that 2007-2008 was the last year for 107 schools to receive deseg funding. This amount can vary from several thousand dollars to well over $100,000 at some schools. Did your school lose deseg funding? Was it made up in other ways to your school?

Parents United advocates that all schools have a baseline guaranteed school budget that grows every year and provides identified core classroom initiatives and supports, including reduced class size, art/music/science/gym, full time nurses, librarian, tutoring and mentoring services, bilingual personnel as needed, healthy food options and accessible transportation.

If you notice dramatic changes in your school budget, let us know.

Mark Your Calendars

  • School District budget hearing: April 16th, 1 p.m., 440 N. Broad Street.
  • City Council hearings on District budget: April 28-29, with public testimony on the 29th from 1-3 p.m. and 5-7 p.m.

Take Action!

Let the District know what your own school priorities are. Take a moment to do our parent survey (coming soon!) and pass it along. We’ll be bringing the results to the District.

Bring Parents United to your school to talk about using budgets to get real change. Contact us for more information.

February 20, 2008

Philadelphia pulls beef off school menus after recall

News sources are reporting today that the School District has pulled beef off the menu after the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture confirmed today that Philadelphia had received shipments of meat from the Westland/ Hallmark Meat Company. The US Department of Agriculture issued a recall on millions of pounds of Westland/Hallmark beef after a video became public showing the company slaughtering diseased cows. Westland/Hallmark provides beef to the national school lunch program. The story became public at the end of last January.

Parents United contacted the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture yesterday to inquire about Philadelphia's beef sources.

As parents, we are appalled at the practices of Westland/Hallmark, and we are deeply concerned with the quality of food served in our public schools. Since November, Parents United has developed a parent- driven Healthy Foods Initiative to review our school lunch program and request that fresh, local foods and vegetarian options be added to school menus. We ask the District to use this opportunity to reassess its food program and work with parents to provide the best quality of food to our children, rather than seek the cheapest options. In addition we ask for the District to be as transparent as possible about its food program and provide an annual report on the state of our school lunch program.

We hope that this fiasco will lead to an improved school nutrition program and look forward to partnering with the District on this effort. For more information about Parents United's Healthy Foods Initiative, email us.