May 28, 2008
SRC to pass 2009 budget
On Wednesday, May 28, the District will pass its fiscal year 2009 budget of $2.3 billion. What's in the budget is more than $28 million won by Parents United and other parent groups for:
- reduced class size (at 35 corrective action elementary schools);
- $6.7 million to ensure at least a part-time art or music program in every school;
- $10 million to eliminate split grades across the district.
In April, parent groups called upon the District to redo all the school by school budgets to put this money back into schools.
In addition, this year the budget process became more transparent than ever. School by school online budgets were posted early; the SRC held several budget hearings, including evening budget sessions that drew out dozens of people; and the District, at parents' urging, visited every region to talk to parents about the budget process.
What's still a problem?
Little of the budget changed, particularly in areas we think could: contracts and high spending patterns within particular departments. In addition, a certain portion of the budget is eaten up by agencies parking their expenses in the schools: the Board of Revision of Taxes (85 employees at $4.9 million), the City Controller's Office (31 employees at $2.8 million), are two examples.
What we could lose?
The consequences of not addressing budget entitlements are serious.
- Overcrowding remains a problem. A recent District survey showed that there is as much as a 10 student-per-teacher average difference across the district, with some schools having an average per teacher ratio of 19 students and others at a 29 student to teacher ratio.
- Thousands of students could lose transpasses: The District's program has traditionally granted transportation to students living 1.5 miles away or more from their schools. The state, however, has a minimum distance of 2 miles, and refuses to reimburse the District. As a result the District is proposing to dump these students, affecting more than 7,000 students across the city.
- Schools lose discretionary spending: For the third year in a row, schools will lose $10 million in discretionary funds, a little less than 5% at each school which equals tens of thousands of dollars at even the smallest schools.
What to do:
- The District's budget will depend heavily on the Governor's budget, so an organized call to your state legislature will make a difference. Join Parents United on June 11th, at 6 p.m. (see below) to get more information on how to get involved in the budget.
- Lobby for your school: List your school's needs with the necessary monetary support. Prioritize the spending (list your choices in order), and testify on your school's behalf with other parents at the school.
- Go public: Write a letter to the editor, invite media to your school, make organized contact with Council members, take pictures and write a column for your neighborhood weekly.
Parking Authority turns over another million to schools
Yesterday, the Philadelphia Parking Authority announced it will turn over more than $2.2 million to the public schools, a million dollars more than they had announced last December. Parents United for Public Education and other parent, student, education and community groups called upon the Authority to make good on a promise that it would fund schools. Since 2004, the Parking Authority had not given a dollar to the schools, even though they doubled their revenues, now more than $200 million a year.
Media reports documented how most of the revenues have been eaten up by the Parking Authority itself, with a doubling of jobs, high wages and extravagant perks and bonuses. Parents United is pleased that parents have led for this call for accountability and public schools. At the same time, we await the independent and desk and performance audit of the agency promised to us by Gov. Rendell, before stating that this is the best this agency can do.
Get to know us
Parents United for Public Education is an independent, all-volunteer group of Philadelphia public school parents working for a school budget that places kids first. You can hear about us at the following events:
- Thursday, May 29: Helen Gym will speak about the public schools at 7 p.m. at the Northern Liberties Neighborhood Association.
- Thursday, June 5: Right to Ed Task Force honors Parents United for Public Education at their Beacon of Light Award Ceremony from 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. at the School District of Philadelphia, 440 N. Broad Street.
- Wednesday, June 11: Parents United for Public Education general meeting at 6 p.m., 2231 N. Broad Street, just north of Broad & Susquehanna, across from Uptown Theater. Email us for more information.
May 1, 2008
Let's talk food: Council committee hearing on beef recall, school nutrition
- City Council Education Committee
- Hearing: Beef recall and efforts by the School District of Philadelphia to insure food safety and nutrition
- Tuesday, May 6th, 1 p.m.
- City Hall, Room 400 (Council chambers)
The City Council Education Committee is hosting a hearing on the beef recall and food and nutrition in our public schools. We strongly urge parents to testify about your concerns. Parents United for Public Education has a bloc of parents testifying to the need for a number of different options (including vegetarian and soy options at all schools), fresh and raw fruits and vegetables, access to potable drinking water, use of full service meal programs, scheduling and the need for a comprehensive and public study of food services.
To testify as part of Parents United, contact us.
To testify independently, contact Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell's office, 215-686-3418, or email John Christmas.