Statement on the SRC


November 5, 2007  

Parents United statement on the appointment of Heidi Ramirez to the SRC 

Parents United for Public Education is looking forward to working with Professor Heidi Ramirez in improving the public's trust of the School Reform Commission. 

Prof. Ramirez's appointment raises expectations for strengthening the "education" side of the SRC. With her education background, we expect her to be aggressive about reducing class size, using research to push education and classroom focused reforms, strengthening funding at the classroom level, and holding the line on contracting in the District. We believe diversity on the SRC is essential, and expect that Prof. Ramirez's background will bring in specific concerns about diverse communities into an overall vision for the school district. In particular, we ask her to address many concerns about services to English language learners and bilingual students. 

At the same time, we expect her appointment to result in moving the SRC toward a more inclusive and transparent decision-making process. Prof. Ramirez arrives at a time of critical transition for the SRC as it works to rebuild public trust and assure parents and school personnel that creating quality classrooms are at the top of the agenda. We have made great strides already but we still ask that Prof. Ramirez support parents' concerns to change the SRC meeting formats to include evening and community based meetings, to get out into the public more frequently, and to engage directly with different community, advocacy and parent groups in building the reform agenda. 

Finally, we want to thank Governor Rendell for considering community concerns around the SRC appointment. Parents United believes that if an SRC is to be effective and gain public trust, its commissioners must be educated about our schools and engaged with our school communities. We will work to ensure that the Governor's appointment is a step away from "politics as usual" and towards a more responsive, publicly accountable Commission. 

October 18, 2007

At the SRC: lower class size, art and music new priorities

At the regular School Reform Commission meeting yesterday, the SRC announced its top priorities. In today's Daily News, SRC Commissioner James Gallagher said:

"What we're doing is focusing on a small menu of high-powered, academically driven ideas that we think are doable, that we have the money to achieve. These things are not pie-in-the-sky, wild dreams. We're not making promises to people that will turn them off - something that has happened in the past."

Read the Commission's report here. (PDF)
At the top of the list? Reduced class size in the primary grades and art and music as a "must have" for every school. 

Since 2006, "Classrooms First" has been the defining cry of Parents United. Organized parents have been actively advocating for a reinvestment of resources back into the classroom since Spring 2006. We believe that organized parents have been the primary reason we're starting to swing things back to the classroom on a broader scale.
At the same time, there is much work ahead. The District remains committed to privatization (despite numerous studies showing they generally haven't outperformed district schools with the more than $100 million in management fees they've collected), we're still limited by our finances, and we face the grim necessity of bringing up nearly a quarter of District schools that are classified as "Corrective Action 2" schools. We salute the dozens of students from Philadelphia Student Union who were actively outspoken yesterday on the needed priorities for these schools, and students from Youth United for Change advocating for Kensington H.S.
What we know is that when active, organized and committed parents come to the table, things change -- usually for the better.


August 14, 2007

Statement on the appointment of Sandra Dungee Glenn

Parents United supports Governor Rendell's naming of Commissioner Sandra Dungee Glenn as chair of the School Reform Commission.

Commissioner Glenn has shown leadership and courage particularly in taking positions that have been unpopular with some of her fellow SRC commissioners, but which often reflect the real needs and input of parents, students and community members. Most notably, we support her stands on class size reduction, accountability for EMOs and privately managed schools, resource equity across the district, the African American studies mandate, and community engagement efforts. We particularly appreciate Commissioner Glenn's efforts to remain accessible to the constituents she serves.

Parents United looks forward to working with SRC Chair Sandra Dungee Glenn on rebuilding public trust, and improving a budget process that supports academic achievement and accountability for all schools.

August 10, 2007 

Statement on the resignation of Chairman James Nevels 

For the past five years, Chairman James Nevels has presided over and been a leading figure in shaping one of the most controversial periods of the Philadelphia public schools. Parents United for Public Education became activated largely under Chairman Nevels's stewardship of the School Reform Commission, as an organized parent response to a crushing deficit situation that resulted in more than 50 Home and School Associations and parent-led organizations executing a vote of "No Confidence" in the SRC's financial plans for our schools.
In the past year, we have seen the rise of an engaged and activated parent body that has led the charge for increased city funding to schools, lowering class size, and greater transparency and parent engagement in the budget process. We have been encouraged by the SRC's plans to reduce class size and begin to engage more vigorously and honestly with parents.
Parents United is even more encouraged by the possibilities of the transition in leadership at the School Reform Commission. We believe this transition period is an important opportunity for the new SRC Chair to address some longstanding concerns raised by parents over the past year: 

  • Rebuild the public trust: The SRC must take responsibility for the lack of oversight that left us with a long-term deficit for which the children of our city are now paying for in increased class sizes, split grades, and declining school-based budgets. In addition, the SRC's $3.5 million bureaucracy seemed excessive and its public relations consultants often made it difficult for the Commission to feel accessible or responsive to parent concerns. The incoming Commissioner needs to address these gaps in the public trust by creating a more open and transparent decision-making process and ensure that the SRC itself presents a fiscally appropriate leadership model.
  • Demonstrate a commitment to academic achievement and accountability as well as fiscal responsibility: For many parents, it has often felt that our calls for reduced class size, arts and music programs, counselors, librarians, aides, and the support and development of a quality professional teaching force have not been prioritized as much as certain political, corporate or private interests. We ask the new SRC Chair to commit to reordering the District's budget priorities so that core education and support services form the foundation of the budget and that there is support for school programs that work and accountability for programs that don't.
  • Engage parents as partners in the decision-making process: The SRC has largely failed to engage parents in a transparent and open process around its decision-making practices. With weekday afternoon board hearings, limited public testimony, hours-long executive sessions, suppressed District studies, and a failure to follow through on a promised community-based budget process, many parents felt that the SRC was extremely difficult to engage with and understand. We ask the new SRC Chair to institute policies which improve public engagement and enable diverse groups of parents to be a part of the decision-making process.
  • Rethink the diverse provider model:  After five years, the diverse provider model has failed to generate the level of academic achievement and accountability that was promised to Philadelphians. Four independent studies show that EMOs did not significantly academically outperform district managed schools despite receiving more than $100 million in management fees. The wholesale one-year renewal of all the EMOs at a cost of $12 million despite a more nuanced proposal by Commissioner Dungee Glenn was a grave disservice to public school children across the city. With No Child Left Behind guidelines imminent, it is critical that the new Commissioner rethink its commitment to the diverse provider model and back to a commitment to programs that work, such as the Office of Restructured Schools.

Parents United is looking forward to working with the new leadership of the School Reform Commission. We believe that a vigilant, engaged and informed parent body will be the key to substantive and sustainable education reform that reflects the best interests of our children. We invite Governor Rendell and the Harrisburg leadership to consult with Philadelphia parents prior to any commission and chair appointment to discuss the roles and responsibilities of a future commissioner and ways for all citizens to work toward a better future for our schools.
Parents United remains committed to working cooperatively with the District and SRC in making public education a compelling and moral commitment of our civic and elected officials.


More statements

Statement on elimination of transpasses (6/24/08) 

Statement on the EMO decision (6/19/08)

Statement on contract negotiations with the new CEO (2/27/08)

Statement on GCA requirements (1/15/08)   

Statement on vote of No Confidence (5/29/07)