Media alerts and updates - July 2008


July 3, 2008

July update

In this update:

  1. State education budget looks more promising for Philadelphia
  2. Parents United appeals to SEPTA on transpass issue
  3. Edison Schools Inc. says it's "not responsible" for safety of kids
  4. Parents United receives funding!

This has been an extraordinary month for Parents United. As we enter the holiday, we want to thank all of you, especially those who took the time to share information, call their legislators and get moving on the transpass issue. As parents we embody the true spirit of this July 4th holiday – democracy in action!

State education budget looks more promising for Philadelphia

While we believe it is too early to celebrate, the Inquirer is reporting that the preliminary agreement calls for a historic boost in education spending statewide, with Philadelphia likely to get the full share of $85 million that it was counting on. Lawmakers had planned to take away $34 million of Philadelphia's money to redistribute to other districts, but now the word is that lawmakers are seeking to ensure that Philadelphia receives the $34 million in other ways. The bad news is that a six-year funding plan has been scrapped for now, with lawmakers preferring to play poltitics with the education budget rather than deliver a funding formula that would address the dramatic inequities of school funding statewide.

Parents United appeals to SEPTA on transpass issue

Last week, a group of heroic and intrepid parents made their way to the SEPTA board meeting to make an appeal about student transpasses. The District wants to save $4.2 million by cutting off transpasses to thousands of students. SEPTA, even though it sits on a $130 million surplus, has said it has no interest in helping address the gap, saying "its not our issue," or worse, calling such an expenditure a "waste of money."

Parents United has made protection of transpasses one of our top issues. It's received the unanimous support of City Council and the Mayor's Education Office as well as plenty of press attention. We believe that all entities need to come together for solutions. We'll be looking to put some more pressure on SEPTA in the coming weeks.

Read press coverage of this issue here:

  • School district proposes cutting transpasses to thousands of students
  • City officials join in criticizing district's proposal
  • City Council weighs in against transpass cuts
  • Parents protest district plan

Edison Schools Inc. says it's "not responsible" for safety of kids

This week Edison Schools Inc., the nation's largest for-profit manager of public schools, settled a civil case with sealed records in the brutal assault of a 12-year old child at Stetson Middle School in Philadelphia. In a shocking display of hubris, Edison argued in court that it was "not responsible" for the safety of children in their schools.

To be clear, Edison has had a long history of safety and security problems at their schools. Edison ran nine of 10 school in Chester- Upland School District for six years, a tenure that was marked by countless suspensions, walk-outs and protests. Here in Philadelphia, Edison was recently in the news for hiring a community based organization to provide its security officers, an outfit that ended up failing to pay its employees resulting in numerous complaints from schools. Edison also failed this past school year to make even the most minimal advances on teacher attendance and suspensions (in order to pass they had to show less than 1% improvement – they failed to do that much.)

The problems at Stetson were clearly documented in the Inquirer. The tragedy there doesn't symbolize anything more than a private company that sought time and time again to cut corners -- in this case, to an unspeakable end. It is one of the reasons that Parents United has continued to call for review of contracts and for limitations to EMO managers.

Last week, Parents United also got a boost in a major story about Philadelphia's privatization experiment in the Washington Post. Read about it here.

Parents United receives funding from Bread and Roses Community Fund

Parents United is delighted to report that Bread and Roses Community Fund has given Parents United for Public Education its first grant. We'll be using the money to strengthen communications and improve opportunities for participation. We thank Bread and Roses for their support and the same to all of you!