campaigns 2012 budget

Campaign: Parents and the FY2012 District Budget Crisis
 
 
 
Parents and the FY2012 District budget crisis
 
(Cartoon: Signe Wilkerson, Philadelphia Daily News)
 
The District's budget crisis is the worst in our school history. The fiscal triggers are rooted in a devastating state budget that reduces education spending by a billion dollars; the expiration of federal stimulus funds; and a District and SRC that spent without consideration of the consequences. The long-term issues involve concerns about the District, city and state's commitment to financial and managerial oversight as well as their commitment to education priorities that lead to sustainable improvement in our public schools.
 
To "balance" the budget, District officials have proposed:
  • reducing full-day kindergarten down to half-day kindergarten;
  • eliminating free transportation for public, private and parochial students, including the elimination of all yellow bus service for elementary age students and free transpasses;
  • reducing local school budgets by a third, contributing to the loss of 3,800 personnel;
  • re-opening up all labor contracts for re-negotiation;
  • reducing services for immigrant students despite a rising need in many school communities
Recently, District officials have targeted Harrisburg by forming an advocacy group called Protect Philly Ed and leading local rallies and bringing buses to the state capital. Parents United believes that what's missing is an independent parent voice calling for accountability and change targeting multiple parties responsible. 
 
We are adamantly opposed to a state budget that fails to maintain the Rendell-era education funding formula that brought Pennsylvania up from the bottom of the nation in terms of equitable funding. However, actions that feature only Philadelphians and which highlight officials from the controversy-laden School District are neither an efficient nor effective way to press our case with Harrisburg. Instead, we support regional partnerships with our fellow districts which are also suffering from the state cuts.
 
We believe that the city and District/SRC in particular must be held accountable for their financial commitments and educational priorities.   
 
 
TARGET: City Hall
 
Why does City Hall matter? They provide 30% of the District's funding. Moreover the city has not significantly contributed any more money to the public schools since 2007.
  
What are we asking them to do?
  1. Ensure free transportation for all school-aged students: Tens of thousands of public, parochial and private school students could lose yellow school buses and transpasses due to District budget cuts. The City should contribute targeted funds to restore free transportation for all school-age students.
  2. Restore the District's share of property tax revenue from 55% to 60%: In 2007, Parents United was one of a number of organizations supporting an increase in the share of property tax revenue going to schools. In 2010, the City of Philadelphia increased property taxes but claimed the entire amount for city coffers. As a result, the District's share of revenue fell from 60% to 55% - a difference of $60 million according to the District finance office. Restore the 60% share to schools, and guarantee that any increase in property tax includes the District as a beneficiary.
  3. Remove  non-District employees from the District payroll: Our schools pay a $4 million to cover salary costs for the Bureau of Revision of Taxes and $600,000 to cover the salaries of City Controller employees. Put these costs onto the City payroll where they belong   
  4. Support the call to protect schools: Ask Council to support local schools efforts to restore the 29% cut in discretionary funds.              
 
TARGET: School Reform Commission

Since December 2010, the School Reform Commission has approved millions in questionable contracts despite having announced the most devastating financial crisis in school history. These contracts include:
  • $4.7 million to buy textbooks for the 18-day summer program
  • $1.4 million in seemingly new initiatives ranging from  mentoring programs to an online literacy and math program to a teen program with Oprah Winfrey's Stedham Graham;
  • $120,000 for marketing consultants to advertise a certification program and help recruit teachers;
  • $45,000 for public relations consulting

What are we asking them to do?

  1. Impose a moratorium on all non-essential contracts, consultants and programs: If the District can't afford to maintain a base level of funds for schools, then it shouldn't be hiring consultants and starting up new programs and initiatives.
  2. Restore the 29% cut in the school based budgets: The cut to local school's discretionary funds has resulted in the loss of 3,800 teaching personnel and has the most devastating and widespread impact on schools. The SRC must commit to devoting any savings toward reducing the impact on schools.
  3. Set priorities for programs that work rather than pet projects: The District's 18-day summer program costs $24 million - the same amount as full day kindergarten for an entire year. A recent study showed that the District Promise Academies have uneven results. Why is the District then more than doubling the number of Promise Academies, and investing $23 million in a longer school day, school week, and school year when no evidence exists to show that additional hours makes a significant difference?
 
July 2011

VICTORY! Parents United's "Give Kids a Free Ride" Campaign results in transportation preserved,

$53 million in city funds devoted to essential programs in schools, and oversight in School District

Let's face it. A few months ago, the conversation around our schools was in shambles with a District advocacy machine Protect Philly Ed largely using the tactics of fear and brinksmanship to urge parents to random actions against the state. Then YOU got involved, and we helped set priorities for our schools: full-day kindergarten, free transportation for children, restoring cuts to schools. We lobbied the city for more funds. But we also demanded transparency, new priorities at the District, oversight and new leadership.

As a result, we not only saw more funds go to schools, we saw renewed energy around establishing parent priorities, challenging the District's spending practices, and serious oversight. In June, the Mayor and State signed a Memorandum of Understanding that would require the District to share information publicly about many issues requested by parents. The MOU also requires the District to follow a five year financial plan, another achievement championed by Parents United.

The victory of course is bittersweet. We are facing the loss of thousands of staff next year, dozens of schools are slated for closing or consolidation, and we desperately need new leadership at the top - with no golden parachutes or buyouts. We need an active and independent parent voice like yours now more than ever.

Join Parents United and let's build a strong voice for our schools!
PARENTS UNITED AND PHILADELPHIA FEDERATION OF TEACHERS JOIN TOGETHER
on an ad campaign to prioritize our teachers, our children and our classrooms!

On June 23, Parents United and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers launched a media campaign to raise attention to the loss of teachers in our classrooms and our schools. Our print ads launched in the Philadelphia Daily News, Metro, City Paper, and Philadelphia Weekly. Our radio ads are currently running as well. Help us make a better school by calling the SRC at 215-400-4010 and tell them to redo the budget, restore cuts to schools and no buyouts for high paid executives!

SCHOOL CLOSINGS UPDATE
URGENT! Philadelphia Public School Notebook publishes confidential document listing dozens of school closings/consolidations. Among the schools listed are:
  • Blankenburg Drew Dunbar Fitler Gideon Harrison L.P. Hill Levering Nebinger Overbrook Elementary T.M. Peirce Pepper

  • Shaw Sheppard Sheridan West E.M. Stanton Waring A. Wilson S.A. Douglas FitzSimons Benjamin Franklin

  • Furness (with students sent to South Philadelphia) Philadelphia Military Academy at Leeds (or the Academy at Elverson)

  • Randolph Skills Center (with students sent to Dobbins) Rhodes Robeson (with students sent to Sayre)

Parents United meets with SEPTA General Mgr., talks with schools CFO.

Now, a deal is likely on free transpasses. Way to go team!

Read about our City Hall lobby day and petition in Tuesday's Inquirer

TAKE ACTION FOR OUR KIDS!

In two weeks, the School District intends to pass a budget that eliminates full-day kindergarten, all yellow buses and free transpasses, and cuts 29% of each school’s local funds, resulting in the loss of 3800 personnel. Meanwhile, the SRC continues to spend millions on contracts. Parents are working hard to change the governor’s budget. We need a responsible SRC that acts to protect the public interest.

We must take action now! It’s not business as usual.
Parents United for Public Education is an all volunteer, independent collective of parents which believes in quality schools and responsible funding. State, city and district leaders must:
  1. Ensure full-day kindergarten.
  2. Restore free transportation for all school-age students.
  3. Restore the 29% cut in each school’s discretionary funds.
  4. Impose a moratorium on all non-essential contracts, hiring of personnel, and start-up/expansion of new programs and initiatives.
  5. Restore the District's share of property tax revenue from 55% to 60%.

RESTORE FREE TRANSPORTATION FOR STUDENTS!
The District budget threatens to eliminate yellow school buses and free transpasses for all public, private and parochial school students . More than 600 people have signed our petition to Council to boost funding to schools by supporting free transportation for all school-age students. Tell Council: It's our kids who deserve the free ride!
Testify!
Please organize en masse for the May 31st School Reform Commission hearing where the FY2012 budget will be passed.
  • Wed., May 25th, 1:30-3 p.m., City Council budget hearings on the School District: Call 215-686-3407. Can’t make it in the middle of a workday afternoon? Call and demand an evening session!
  • Thurs., May 26th, 3 p.m., SEPTA board meeting: 1234 Market Street, email us for more information! We're planning to tell SEPTA that it's our kids who deserve the free ride!
  • Tues., May 31st, 5 p.m. School Reform Commission meeting to pass the FY2012 budget: Call 215-400-4500 by 4:30 p.m. Monday
Lobby!
Ten phone calls a day qualifies as a major issue for any council office. The message: 1) Ensure free transportation for all public school students; 2) Increase funds to the schools; and 3) Help lobby the District to restore the 29% cut to each individual school’s funds.
Parents United City Hall lobbying day: Monday, May 23, 12-2 p.m.: Meet us on the third floor of City Hall at the northeast side of the elevators. Call Helen at 215-808-1400 with any questions.
Frank DiCicco: 215-686-3458
Anna Verna: 215-686-3412
Jannie Blackwell: 215-686-3418
Curtis Jones: 215-686-3416
Darrell Clarke: 215-686-3442
Joan Krajewski: 215-686-3444
Maria Quinones-Sanchez: 215-686-3448
Donna Reed Miller: 215-686-3424
Marian Tasco: 215-686-3454
Brian O’Neill: 215-686-3422
Wilson Goode, Jr.: 215-686-3414
James Kenney: 215-686-3450
Frank Rizzo: 215-686-3440
William Greenlee: 215-686-3446
Blondell Reynolds Brown: 215-686-3438
The School Reform Commission is an appointed body which should provide fiscal and managerial oversight of the District.
Send emails to SRC Commissioners Robert Archie, Chair; Johnny Irizarry; Denise Armbrister, and Joseph Dworetzky: eodavis@philasd.org, johnnyi@exchange.upenn.edu, druggiano@phila.k12.pa.us, ffrederick@phila.k12.pa.us, nmills@philasd.org
The Mayor’s Office of Education is the liaison between City Hall and the School District.
Lori Shorr, Chief Education Officer: 215-686-0333, lori.shorr@phila.gov
 
 
Read Helen Gym's City Council testimony: No blank check bailout for the District
 
Read Helen Gym's blog post on continued District contracting: "District's $8 million slush fund is why we need more than political theater"
 
Read Parents United's FOIA request on District contracts.
 
Read Helen Gym's analysis of Central Office staffing: Is the District padding its books? 
 
Read our Memo to City Council: "Questions City Council should ask the District"
 
Read Tuesday's Philadelphia Inquirer story which previews the Council budget hearings on schools and mentions our petition
 
Subpages (1): Council Memo 1
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