Media alerts and updates - November 2007

 

November 30, 2007

November has been a busy month for Parents United for Public Education. What follows is an update on our November work.

On this page:

  1. Parents United open meeting
  2. Philadelphia Parking Authority
  3. Meeting with CEO Tom Brady
  4. High School multiple acceptances
  5. Ongoing committees
  6. Future work
  7. Upcoming dates

Parents United open meeting

  • Wednesday, December 12, 6-8 p.m.
  • Central Germantown Council, 5800 Germantown Ave.

Please call ahead (215-236-2100) if you can attend, and we'll count you in for pizza ($3-5 contribution).

Philadelphia Parking Authority

More dollars for the public schools are critical if we're going to demand change. Since September, Parents United has called upon the Philadelphia Parking Authority to fulfill a $20 million commitment to the schools. The campaign has received tremendous publicity, and the attention of the Governor and Mayor-Elect, but so far no cash. There is a proposal to divert about a million new dollars from a red light camera bill to schools, but that bill is currently stalled in the House. Parents are currently going through PPA audits to search for what we believe could be a "special dividend" to the schools.

TAKE ACTION! Five minutes of your time can make a difference. Letters and phone calls to Rep. John Perzel (215-725-2100) and Dwight Evans (215-549-0220), both of whom orchestrated the state takeover of the Parking Authority by promising a steady funding stream to the public schools. Letters to the editor also help:

Parents United meeting with Tom Brady

On November 15, Parents United continued our ongoing conversation with interim CEO (Chief Executive Officer) of the School District Tom Brady. Below is a brief summary.

  • Baseline budget for schools: Parents United requests that the School District begin a plan to establish a baseline budget for schools and begin community-based budget discussions so schools will not be surprised by budgeting in the spring. A baseline budget guarantee is supposed to ensure that schools' needs come first. Mr. Brady said there was interest in beginning those discussions in January.
  • Expansion of reduced class size initiative and arts & music: Parents United requests that the District clarify the expansion of the reduced class size initiative for year 2 and document and clarify the plan for expansion of arts and music in the schools.
  • Transportation/deseg: Parents United believes strongly that all children should have free transportation to school. Mr. Brady said that the District is discussing the possible expansion to 5th and 6th grade of the SEPTA passes currently being granted to 7-12th graders. They are costing out this initiative. Parents United is pushing the District to engage in a community discussion of deseg and its ties to funding and transportation.
  • Contracts: Parents United requests to review the EMO contracts, particularly with regard to obligated services to English language learners and special needs students. We have also requested whether we can have input or provide points of concern regarding upcoming labor contracts.

High school multiple acceptances

Earlier this fall, Parents United successfully reversed a planned policy to eliminate multiple acceptances to high school. A group of a dozen concerned parents met with CAO (Chief Academic Officer) Cassandra Jones in mid-November. Dr. Jones explained to us that she would likely submit to the SRC in December a recommendation to permanently eliminate multiple acceptances to high schools based on an independent study. The SRC will likely take a vote sometime in February. A new meeting is scheduled for December 5. If you are a concerned parent on this issue, we recommend staying in touch with this group as we believe that the SRC will make the final decision on this issue.

You can contact the SRC by writing to:

Committees

The School District of Philadelphia is embarking on a number of District initiatives, many of them far-reaching. Parents United representatives are serving on the CEO Search Committee and the Alternative Education Task Force. Other committees include:

  • High School Blueprint Committee (Al Bichner)
  • Corrective Action II Task Force (Cassandra Jones)
  • Strategic Planning

If you are interested in serving on any of these committees, contact the CEO's office for more information.

Future Work

In addition to the above, Parents United will be looking at the following areas of work. If you are interested please let us know.

  • Healthy foods initiative: Help us figure out how to bring in a healthy foods program to the schools.
  • Council legislative visits: This January, Parents United will head to City Council with a legislative list of demands for our schools. Get to know City Council and put education on the front of their agendas.
  • State funding and costing out study: A recent state study showed that Philadelphia is almost a billion dollars underfunded and 95% of the school districts in the Commonwealth are also underfunded. Will this study result in any action by the legislature? Not unless we do something. Contact Parents United if you're interested in joining the effort to secure a more just education funding system.
  • School Reform Commission/state meetings: We're planning meetings with School Reform Commissioners and state policy makers. We're looking for parents and school representatives to explain what their schools need and where we need to prioritize dollars.

Save the Date

  • Parents United open meeting, December 12, 6-8 p.m., 5800 Germantown Avenue: Find out about us and how you can be part of an active parent group working for change and justice in our schools.
  • Philadelphia Parking Authority: Grinch or Santa? December 17, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., 3101 Market Street: The last Parking Authority board action. Join us as we give the Parking Authority an award for Grinch of the Year or celebrate a school funding victory.
  • African American United Fund fundraiser honoring Parents United for Public Education as Volunteers of the Year, December 20, 6-9 p.m., 2231 N. Broad Street: African American United Fund has named Parents United for Public Education their Volunteers of the Year and are celebrating our accomplishments. Please consider coming to their annual holiday party, $20 donation requested. Email us for more information.

November 21, 2007

Parents renew call for Parking Authority to fund schools

"A billion a year short means everyone steps up"

  • Parking Authority monthly board meeting
  • DATE: Monday, November 26th
  • TIME: Press conference (PFT confirmed): 11 a.m.; board meeting 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.
  • WHERE: PPA headquarters, 3101 Market Street

Dozens of parents and citizens are expected to pack the Parking Authority's monthly board meeting on Monday questioning why the Authority has still not been able to deliver funds to the schools.

"This was a commitment that was supposed to have been fulfilled every single year since 2004," said Gerald Wright, a member of the Leadership Collective of Parents United for Public Education.

Parents and citizens are expected to discuss the significance of the Parking Authority funds in light of the recently released legislative study on the state of public education funding in the Commonwealth. That study found that 95% of all districts are underfunded, and Philadelphia is underfunded by a billion dollars a year.

Parents point out that recent news reports have shown that the Parking Authority clearly has the money, but has spent it internally rather than prioritizing the city and schools.

They also said they expected to see their political leaders step up and address the underfunding issue clearly and firmly.

"We're not going to get to that number unless every single agency steps up," said Aissia Richardson, a parent at Girard Academic Music Program. "This is not about beating up on the Parking Authority. It's about understanding that our schools are a critical issue and one which everyone has a moral and civic obligation to fund."

November 15, 2007

Costing out study shows Philly is $1 Billion short of adequate

The numbers are in, and they show the cost of underfunding our public schools. Almost 95% of the districts in the Commonwealth do not meet the standard level of adequacy as determined by an independent study firm. Philadelphia alone would stand to gain 50% more or $1 billion. And that is not the cost of luxury, it's the cost of adequacy.

What would we do with a billion dollars? Parents United has been campaigning for a baseline minimum for our schools. That means no matter the size, poverty level, achievement guarantees, all schools must have:

  • a decent if not low class size
  • art
  • music
  • science
  • a library with a librarian
  • support services
  • tutoring
  • language translators

It's not headline-making, but it is revolutionary.

So what's the catch? At a lobbying day yesterday sponsored by Good Schools PA, and anchored by groups such as ACORN, EPOP, Philadelphia Student Union, Meredith Home & School, and Youth United for Change, two busloads of parents and students listened as Philadelphia legislator after Philadelphia legislator pooh-poohed the study or made lackluster overtures.

Don't wait for Harrisburg to do something with this study. The
overwhelming majority of legislators would like nothing more than for
this to go away. The same goes for our governor and Mayor. They won't take the lead unless they see movement from the people.

Knowledge demands action. Now you know, so what can you do?

Get in touch with Justin at Good Schools PA (email him by clicking here).

Attend two public hearings on the study:

  • Nov. 27, 7-9 p.m., Upper Darby High School Performing Arts Center, 601 N. Lansdowne Ave., Drexel Hill.
  • Nov. 28, 7-9 p.m., Benjamin Franklin High School, 550 N. Broad St., Philadelphia.
You can read the study here. (PDF)Coverage of this issue in various local papers is collected here.

November 14, 2007

Your participation has never been more crucial! Read below for information on important dates and events.

Two reasons to get on the bus

  • Support a better education funding system: Today, Wed., Nov. 14, at 10:30 a.m. Good Schools PA is sponsoring a free bus trip to Harrisburg to support the release of a new study which supports a new and more equitable funding formula for public education. Good Schools PA already has two buses headed to Harrisburg to show Philly's support for this new formula. Buses leave from Broad & Spring Garden at 10:30 a.m. and return around 6 p.m. Parents United has reserved 5 seats on the bus. If you're interested and available contact Justin at (267) 258-2158 this morning!
  • Watch the Parking Authority: Rep. Dwight Evans has called a surprise hearing at 2 p.m. in Harrisburg on the Parking Authority. It's not clear what the hearing is about but some guess it is a way to boost the Parking Authority's image and push forward a bill to reauthorize the red light cameras. Parents United, Philadelphia Home & School Council and the Taxi Workers Alliance signed an open letter to the House Appropriations Committee asking for serious inquiry, calling for public testimony (there is none), and requesting that no new legislation passes without significant changes in oversight and management of the PPA.

Parents United Open Meeting with Tom Brady

Join the ongoing dialogue with interim CEO Tom Brady and find out about Parents United:

  • What: Dialogue with CEO Tom Brady
  • When: Thursday, Nov. 15, 6-8 p.m.
  • Where: African American United Fund, 2227 N. Broad Street, just north of Broad & Susquehanna, across from Uptown Theater.

Email us for more information.

Parents to Parking Authority: YOUR METER'S EXPIRED - FUND OUR SCHOOLS!

  • What: Philadelphia Parking Authority monthly board meeting
  • When: Monday, Nov. 26th (after Thanksgiving weekend), 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.
  • Where: 3101 Market Street
More important dates can be found on Parents United's calendar.