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Does it feel like parent voices aren't heard?

Check out Parents United's members making parent voices and opinions heard

loud and clear when it counts and where it counts!


June 20, 2011
WHYY/Daily News, It’s Our Money blog: "The coming conversation on the School District budget"

As for the folks who are supposed to be doing the overseeing, the “five unpaid professionals with full-time jobs” that make up the SRC – should we be re-thinking their role? The Daily News says yes. In the Inquirer, Helen Gym suggests that the fix is not entirely structural:

Unfortunately, the current School Reform Commission members are the head cheerleaders, failing miserably in their oversight responsibilities in the process. Contrast that with the SRC of 2007, which faced a $73 million deficit. The SRC publicly excoriated Vallas; let the chief financial officer and, eventually, Vallas go; instituted financial controls; and dramatically curbed spending and contracting.

June 19, 2011
Philadelphia Inquirer: Helen Gym op-ed "Quick fixes don't work, schools need new leaders"

Today, the issue is the lack of accountability on the part of district leadership and its inability to communicate with parents, students, teachers, and residents.

During a testy exchange with Council, Ackerman pointed her finger at me and asked: Where were you three years ago? What have you done for this district? And I responded, "With all due respect, Dr. Ackerman, we were here before you and will be long after."

Her retort: "And this district will still be a mess."

June 17, 2011
Gym said she would rather have Ramos work with advocates to "transition to an elected school board."

The SRC "has clearly run its course," Gym said. "It's a rubber-stamp agency - an entity that has allowed the district to go straight off the cliff."


June 16, 2011
Philadelphia Inquirer, Heard in the Hall blog: "Voices of the public in a noisy Council chamber"
Briefly summarizes some of the public testimony of dozens of speakers in City Council.


It’s our money: The boy who cried wolf budgeting at the school district

Here's evidence of what you might call boy-who-cried-wolf budgeting (the district struggling to get additional funding because people no longer trust its emergency warnings):  . . .

And school activist Helen Gym argues on Twitter that "Whatever happens tomorrow, any rejection of taxes is referendum on credibility of the District."

Of course, Gym also supports the soda tax, because she thinks the district needs more money at the end of the day (and she thinks it's a reasonable tax). This is basically the argument the mayor made tonight:

June 14, 2011
Philadelphia Daily News: "Teachers vent over pink slips"
Parent Rebecca Poyourow criticized board members for voting on the hefty-priced resolutions in the midst of teachers layoffs.

Among her complaints was one resolution that authorized $8 million for "Limited Contracting Authority," which will allow district officials to approve contracts worth less than $15,000 without a vote from the SRC, and a resolution that gives the district's legal team $2 million to retain outside counsel.

"This is truly horrific on an individual, family, school, neighborhood and citywide level," Poyourow said. "And as you considered every resolution before you today, I wish you had considered how many teaching positions that the money for each of them would have funded."

Parent Rebecca Poyourow upbraided the commission for voting Monday to approve resolutions to spend $150,000 on a weekend leadership retreat; to allocate $8 million for contracts under $15,000 that do not require SRC approval; and to authorize "a $2 million retainer for outside counsel on top of the district's already substantial legal staff."

After detailing the massive cuts to teaching positions approved by the commission, she added: "I wish you had considered how many teaching positions each of them would fund."

AOL PATCH-Mt. Airy: "Parents speak out at SRC meeting"

Rebecca Poyourow said the district was planning on spending $2 million to retain outside counsel next year. She then listed the number of teachers of various subjects that would be cut.

Among them are 323 special education teachers and 121 math teachers.

"This is truly horrific," Poyourow said.

Some of the largest applause of the meeting was reserved for parent Helen Gym, a frequent speaker at such meetings.

Gym brought the crowd to its feet with her impassioned rhetoric.

"We are here to stand with the teachers of this system," she said, as many of the remaining teachers stood and applauded. "Philadelphia will never be Wisconsin."

Philadelphia Public School Notebook: "Revised facilities policies approved"
The SRC was originally scheduled to vote on the two policies last month. But following public testimony from parent activist Cecelia Thompson, the SRC moved to delay the vote and allow for further revisions.

As a result, the final Adaptive Reuse Policy now calls for the District to create "evaluation rubrics" that teams of District staff, city and legislative representatives, and community residents will use to evaluate proposals for each building listed for sale.


June 10, 2011
Notebook writer Helen Gym points out on Young Philly Politics that the Districts budget sets aside $8M in contracts that don't need School Reform Commission approval — a scenario that, she argues, gives Schools Superintendent Arlene Ackerman non-transparent powers over school funds, despite the recent Memorandum of Understanding signed between the District and the city administration. Read more!

 AOL PATCH-Roxborough/Manayunk: "Yellow bus service still at risk for city school children" 

“There must be yellow bus services and transportation provided to the children in the district,” said Gerald Wright, a representative of Parents United for Public Education. Along with his group, Wright has been working to restore funding to full-day kindergarten and transportation, and has called for greater city oversight of the District’s finances.

The group’s founder, Helen Gym, wrote in an email that Parents United believes transportation is a bigger priority that the Promise Academies and summer school programs that are not in danger of being cut. Wright said the large number of children going to schools outside their neighborhood catchements makes district-provided transportation even more important.

June 8, 2011

And in this lies the critical difference between what many parents see as their hopes for a quality school system and the politicians and billionaire venture philanthropists dominating the education reform landscape. The latter have become so enamored with the structure and management of education that they've forgotten about the substance and practice of it.


June 7, 2011
As the school district suddenly faces a shortfall of about one-fifth of its budget, some wonder why the district doesn't do the same thing. Among them are City Councilman Bill Green and Helen Gym, a co-founder of Parents United for Public Education.
"Last year, the school district approved a budget that spent down its entire surplus," Gym said in an interview. "That right there should have been a clear indication that the district was not thinking sensibly about an impending crisis."

Gym told City Council in testimony last month the school district should have to follow the same budget-planning rules as the city, and report to the state oversight board. Nutter is now demanding that the district commit to five-year plans if it wants more help from the city


June 6, 2011

Philadelphia Daily News: "Busing cuts the latest worry for Philly parents"

Those who would be affected are the more than 25,000 district, private and parochial students, many of whom travel outside of their neighborhoods to go to school, said Gerald Wright, of the advocacy group Parents United for Public Education. Aside from safety issues, Wright said, attendance and truancy will also be affected.

"I was surprised that transportation was ever a thing to cut," he said. "It's counterproductive. [District] leadership chose to cut busing and full-day kindergarten because they're hot-button issues and they know people would respond, but people are going to be less trusting of the priorities of the leadership."

In her testimony to City Council on the school district's financial woes, Helen Gym of Parents United for Public Education (who also writes for our content partner, The Public School Notebook) argued that the School District should also come under PICA's review.
June 2, 2011
Philadelphia Public School Notebook: "After schools are closed, who decides their use?"
Extensive profile on Parents United’s co-founder Cecelia Thompson who succeeded in getting the SRC to revise its policy on school closings to allow for more community input.


Philadelphia Public School Notebook: Helen Gym: "Who's getting paid? Posting the District's contracts"
Helen Gym posts Parents United's FOIA request for District contracts, and exposes the hundreds of millions of dollars paid to consultants and vendors on everything from NoPuff Daddy to Oprah's former fiancee to multimillion dollar testing companies.


June 1, 2011
Philadelphia Inquirer: "Interim School budget adopted"
Parent Rebecca Poyourow said she was "concerned - to put it mildly - with what seems like a fundamental lack of oversight and appropriate policy-setting on the part of the SRC and the Philadelphia School District when it comes to stewardship of the funds the district does receive."

Green, Poyourow, and others suggested the district's priorities were out of order - funding an 18-day summer school at a price tag of about $23 million, but cutting transportation and full-day kindergarten, for instance, and paying big salaries to central administrators, but cutting jobs and counting on givebacks from teachers.

Poyourow, whose older son is a first grader at Cook-Wissahickon Elementary in Roxborough, is one of hundreds of parents who have mobilized to lobby legislators for more funding.

"Our message to the members of the SRC and to the district is that we believe in our schools, and we will fight for public education, but you have got to put this house in order," she said.

May 31, 2011
Philadelphia Public School Notebook: "SRC passes budget despite public outcry"
Parent Rebecca Poyourow decried what she called a "lack of oversight and priority-setting by the SRC." Several speakers questioned spending more money in the turnaround Promise Academies and on converting schools to Renaissance charters without more evidence that they are improving student outcomes.


May 28, 2011

Philadelphia Inquirer: "Deal is near on transit passes"

After a "very productive" meeting Friday, officials said they were optimistic the current program will not be eliminated by the cash-strapped school district. . .  Helen Gym, co-founder of Parents United for Public Education and one of several parents who met with SEPTA officials Thursday, said, "There is absolutely no reason why Transpasses should be on the table" for possible elimination. "We believe that the threat to cut transportation is not truly a financial issue for the district, but a short-term paper accounting trick that would have long-lasting consequences."


May 27, 2011

NewsWorks, "SEPTA and Philadelphia schools optimistic about funding student transpasses"

A meeting between the School District of Philadelphia and SEPTA Friday is being described as "productive." The parties said they're optimistic they've found a way to save the current student Transpass system, which the District threatened to cut because of it's own financial struggles.   . . .

Gerald Wright, from the group Parents United for Public Education, says the District should have explained this earlier. 

"If it's a cash flow issue, it should be stated as a cash flow issue," said Wright. "A lot of people are upset that they might not have transportation next year for their kids. The anxiety that parents are feeling should not be heaped on them, when it's not necessary."
May 24, 2011
Philadelphia Public School Notebook: Helen Gym blog: "Budget questions City Council needs to ask the District"
Helen Gym shares Parents United for Public Education's memo to City Council members. Gym urges inquiry into the District's spending practices and priorities like Promise Academy expansion, summer school expenses and contracting.
May 19, 2011

Philadelphia Inquirer: In Brief: "SRC delays building vote"

The School Reform Commission has postponed a vote on two policies the school district proposed that would allow it to close, sell or demolish old or underused buildings deemed "unnecessary" under the district's facilities master plan. The SRC had been slated to vote on the Adaptive Reuse Policy and the revised Rightsizing Policy during yesterday's planning session, but at the behest of a parent, voted to table the resolutions until June.

Parent Cecelia Thompson pleaded with the board to give the community more time to have its say.

May 5, 2011
Parent Helen Gym joins host Marty Moss-Coane to discuss the District's budget crisis and how to get out of the mess we're in.
May 4, 2011
Philadelphia Inquirer: "Parents blast District budget"
Featuring the voices of many Parents United members and supporters which focused on essential programs (full day kindergarten, transportation and restoring cuts to school discretionary funds) and challenging the District's own priorities (exorbitant executive salaries, expanded initiatives, summer school expenses): 
Parents, teachers and community members said they did not like the district's $2.8 billion budget, which contains more than $629 million in cuts - including the total elimination of full-day kindergarten, slashing school discretionary funds by an average of 30 percent, and losing more than 3,000 jobs. . .