Media alerts and updates - April 2008

 

April 25, 2008

Parents win back money for art/music mandate, more public budget hearings

Parents United for Public Education and its many partner groups, including Philadelphia Home and School Council and local school associations, JUNTOS, and Germantown Clergy Initiative, want to share the following recent victories around the budget:

  • Schools to get $6.7 million for art and music: The District is returning $6.7 million in school funds to help offset the cost of the art/music mandate. Every school will get between $18,000 and $42,000, depending on its size. Every school is required to have either a part time art or music teacher (at a minimum). Schools who already have either art or music will receive the funds to offset their purchase.
  • SRC holds more public budget hearings: The SRC will hold two additional public hearings on the budget: May 7th (in the evening) and May 14th. The public can also comment on the budget by emailing the SRC.

At the April 23rd budget hearing, more than 20 parents testified to the need for more open, honest dialogue with parents, schools and students, as well as the disconnect between luxuries at the District level ($20,000 per day for the recently announced CEO advisory panel, $25,000 in foliage to spruce up the School District building's atrium, a $2.5 million SRC budget) and constant struggles at the school level. A number of parents from Nebinger and Southwark raised concerns about declining services for basic translation for immigrant communities even though immigrant populations are increasing. Greenfield parents raised concerns about teacher cuts in ESOL and special ed.

SRC commissioners emphasized that budgets were still in draft format with suggestions from the public welcome. The SRC will hold two additional budget hearings, one on May 7th (likely to be in the evening), the other on May 14th. The budget is scheduled for approval May 28th.

TAKE ACTION!

Testify! City Council public hearings on the School District budget will be held Tuesday, April 29, 1:30 -3 p.m. and 5:30-7 p.m. Call Council at 215-686-3407.

There will also be public budget hearings held by the School District on Wednesday, May 7 and Wednesday, May 14. Call 215-400-4500 to testify.

Email the SRC with the following points:

  • Returning school discretionary funds: While we are grateful for the return of funds, most schools are still struggling to recoup losses. School discretionary funds are slated to be cut by around 5% for the third year in a row. Those funds pay for critical things like teachers and programs and aides no longer supplied by the District.
  • Relieving overcrowding: Class size relief may have been implemented for Corrective Action 2 schools, but not for the most overcrowded schools. More than 100 classes are beyond the class size maximum with no plans for reduction.
  • Clarification of the District's plans for cutting academic programs: School operations represent the category most vulnerable to reductions in next year's budget, with almost $60 million to be cut even with a best case scenario for full state funding. What are the top categories where the District plans to cut?
  • Transpasses eliminated for 7,000 kids? Currently the District plans to save $4.27 million by extending the qualifying distance for transpasses from 1.5 miles to 2 miles. Without subsidized tokens this is a punishing situation for children and families in the middle and high school years.
  • External contracts: There has been very little change in the amount of money going to alternative education providers, EMOs, and other external contractors. Poor contract management has made the news lately from CBOs to charters to the school providers failing to do what's promised or (in some cases) improperly managing funds. Rein in the contracting in the district. Cut the SRC's $1.68 million contracts account.
  • Plans for school closings: With declining enrollment, the District has stated its intent to consolidate and close schools. It paid a contractor CRE to complete a report. This report must be made public. Any schools targeted for closing or consolidation must be immediately identified.
  • Librarian mandate shelved: The unfunded mandate on school librarians/LIMAs was rescinded but shouldn't be forgotten. Many schools with libraries lack personnel to staff them. Many schools are waiting for their deserved libraries. Most of these are at the elementary level. We can't complain about 48% grade level reading rates for third graders when we have cut opportunities for children to access books, libraries and literary enrichment. 
April 4, 2008

April updates

On this page:

Parents United citywide meeting

  • Parents United citywide meeting - "What parents need to know about the School District budget"
  • Wednesday, April 9, 6-8 p.m.
  • African American United Fund, 2227 North Broad Street (across from Uptown Theater, just north of Susquehanna)

Parents United needs YOU! We need active voices to make change in our schools today. Join a loud and proud voice for public schools that demands accountability and voice for our communities. Email us for more information.

  • SRC public hearing on the budget
  • Wednesday, April 16, 1 p.m.; Wednesday, April 23, 5 p.m.
  • 440 N. Broad Street

To testify you must call 215-400-4040.

Budget highlights for parents

very general overview of the District's total revenues and totalOn March 26, the District released its "lump sum" budget, which is a expenses. The District's budget counts on the state legislature passing a new school funding formula for schools that would boost Philadelphia's state revenues by an additional $90 million next year alone. Even with this, the District is still looking at a deficit next year of around $38 million. Without a new funding formula from the state, the District would look at over $100 million in likely cuts.

Here are some highlights and concerns:

PROS

  • No forced split grades
  • Deseg funding retained in next year school budgets
  • $15.4 million divided between reduced class size at Corrective Action 2 (CA2) schools and additional dollars for part-time art and music teachers for schools that can't afford them

CONS

  • No apparent expansion of class size reduction plan: CA2 schools were supposed to have received class size reduction this year. They are the only ones slated for additional class size reduction next year (beyond schools that receive teachers to eliminate split grades).
  • Unfunded mandates on librarians and library assistants (LIMA): All schools lose 10 percent of their school discretionary funds for the third year in a row.
  • District will retain full spending ($12 million) on EMOs, which five studies now show do not perform better academically than District schools despite receiving more than $110 million in "management fees."
  • District retains full spending for alternative education providers, with more than $40 million a year going to three companies, CEP (Community Education Partners), Cornell Abraxas, and Camelot, to run disciplinary schools and accelerated high schools. Parents United is deeply concerned about the disciplinary school track where CEP, the largest provider, has failed to prove that they return students to the public schools in a timely fashion, account for students in their care, and maintain a non-enrollment based, non-performance based contract that pays far more than the other providers.
  • The District's plan for Corrective Action 2 schools has no obvious additional money going to the schools with more than one third of the CA2 schools targeted for EMO takeover.

Parents United victories

Parent voices matter! Along with other groups, Parents United for Public Education has won:

  • $15.4 million in next year's budget for reduced class size at Corrective Action schools and some arts and music teachers at schools that cannot afford them;
  • Successfully reversed the District's call for schools to budget for split grades for next year; no school will have a forced split (please contact us if your school does).
  • At least one additional evening hearing on the district budget (April 23 at 5 p.m.)

We're continuing to fight for:

  • An explicit districtwide class size reduction plan;
  • Full funding for librarians and LIMAs;
  • Full restoration of discretionary dollars to schools;
  • Transportation and bussing to schools;
  • Reduction in contracts for EMOs and disciplinary alternative education providers;
  • Districtwide advances in bringing fresh food, vegetarian options and access to free potable water at all schools.

Public School Notebook NewsFlash notes District's lack of transparency on charters

District staff are recommending the closure of two charter schools in Philadelphia, but you wouldn't know it if the Public School Notebook hadn't done some digging around. The District's legal department is blocking requests for the paper to review the charter school renewals. The District's legal head is one of the top three paid staff members in the District. Read about the story here.

Pennsylvania School Funding Campaign

Parents United for Public Education endorses the Pennsylvania School Funding Campaign and will be launching a political watch on candidates next week to determine how they'll vote on the Governor's education budget. Contact us for more information!

Read about the campaign here.

Other important dates and events

  • People's Voter Education Forum - Candidates for state office and invited presidential candidates: Thursday, April 17, Anderson Hall Room 008, Temple University, 1114 W. Berks Street, 6:30-9:00 p.m. (**NOTE THE CHANGE IN TIME AND LOCATION**) At 5:30 p.m. the African American United Fund will host a workshop on community organizing.
  • District hearings on Corrective Action 2 schools: Monday, April 21, 4-5:30 p.m. and Tuesday, April 22, 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m., Benjamin Franklin High School, Broad & Spring Garden.
  • Pennsylvania primaries: Tuesday, April 22. Vote for public education!
  • City Council public testimony on School District Budget: Tueday, April 29, 1:30-3 p.m. and 5:30-7 p.m. To give testimony, call 215-686-3410.