June 24, 2008
Parents United statement on elimination of transpasses
Parents United for Public Education appeals to City Council, the Mayor, the State Department of Education and SEPTA to address the $4.2 million shortfall in order to ensure that thousands of students in Philadelphia continue to receive transpasses.
The elimination of transpasses was one of the first concerns Parents
While we support the public forums on transportation, we believe they
This decision must not be based solely on parent opinion, nor on School District finances, but on a concerted effort by all parties to address this issue.
In terms of the survey, we disagree with the District's efforts to force parents to choose either an attendance or mileage option until all parties have been consulted and accountable to public concerns.
However, in regards to the survey we have grave reservations about the
Opportunity for input
The District is holding public hearings on transpass elimination tonight and tomorrow afternoon. Details below:
April 23, 2008
Parents raise concerns about District's budget process: Reduced class size not advancing, busing cut, parents in the dark
Parents United for Public Education raised concerns today that the District has not invested enough in classrooms and that the budget process has left parents and community members in the dark about proposed changes in the $2 billion school budget.
The citywide parents group, which focuses on budget issues, said they were upset that the teacher force is projected to decline next year. They also said a change in bussing will impact students districtwide and that immigrant parents continue to be shortchanged on interpretation services.
Regarding class size, Parents United pointed to the elimination of 151 teachers, but said that since projected enrollment shows a decline of only 1,466 students, "the numbers don't match." In addition, they noted that two-thirds of the 151 teachers have nothing to do with enrollment and are listed as school support. Overall, Parents United said the District numbers show a decline of at least 25 teachers overall. They also said that the District, in responding to their concerns, has said it will adjust enrollment figures.
"Everyone from the Mayor to the School Reform Commission itself to parents and teachers has called reduced class size a priority, so why are we cutting teachers?" said Aissia Richardson, a parent at Girard Academic Music Program (GAMP).
"We want to praise the District for trying to reduce class size in some areas, but if we cut teachers elsewhere, then it's a wash overall," said Helen Gym from Parents United.
Gym said Parents United has been requesting a class size report from the District for several months but has not yet received it.
In addition, the parents' group said they were upset about the District's plan to change the qualifying distance for transpasses from 1.5 miles to 2 miles, saying this information has never been shared with parents. Richardson noted that the cost of losing bus service is $720 a year per student on public transportation with no transfers.
"I thought the idea was to keep our middle and high students in school," Richardson said. "Why is this deficit being financed on our backs?"
Mexican parents with JUNTOS are expected to testify about a lack of translation services.
"I would like to be able to go tell the teacher that my daughter had been attacked on various occasions by her classmates and for lack of interpretation I have held myself back," said Southwark parent Anasticia Lorenzo . "I feel like we are ignored and our rights trampled."
Parents United said one of its primary concerns is the lack of information and public dialogue about the District's budget. They said that at this point last year, the District had provided a public forum on the District's financial plans as well as a projected cut list.
"The budget says that we're supposed to expect a decline in $5 million from reallocated academic programs, another $5.3 million in operations cuts 'to be determined' and that still only gets us to the point where we're looking at almost $40 million in cuts that have to be made elsewhere," said Gerald Wright, a parent at JS Jenks. "What is that supposed to mean for us? We're trying to get technology at our school but we can't even begin to plan for that when we don't know what the District says are its priorities and what's supposed to get cut."
"We've got less than a month before they pass the budget," continued Wright. "We have to talk about this some more."
Parents say they plan to talk about their concerns at tonight's District hearings, including issues such as the need for bilingual counseling assistants for immigrant populations, the lack of money for high school reform, and why contracts for external providers have stayed the same.
Parents United also noted that EMOs are scheduled to receive more than $400,000 over and above their management fees, including a $200,000 bonus and overtime payments.
Click here to download a detailed breakdown of Parents United's concerns regarding the School District's budget. (PDF)
April 16, 2008
Read Parents United's statement on the City's responsibility to develop a local revenue-boosting strategy for the schools in its Five Year Plan. (PDF).
December 20, 2007
Parents win Parking Authority $$ for schools
How do you get from here:
Well, it came from parents. Public school parents who decided this
The people who did this, for the most part, weren't paid; in fact most
It didn't hurt to have parents with financial experience like Steve
We had allies in the struggle. JUNTOS, TaxiWorkers Alliance and the
It was easy to see the news and think that getting from here to there
So on behalf of Parents United for Public Education, thank you for
We leave you with a few memorable quotes, and words from the Governor this week as he signed off on the red light camera bill:
spoiled an effort by Rep. Dwight Evans to use the red light camera bill to fund Philadelphia public schools. Governor Rendell used the bill signing to speak out on behalf of funding needs for the Philly schools. Read more here.
October 31, 2007
Parents renew call for Parking Authority to fund schools; says recent comments are "shameful" and "evasive"
Parents United for Public Education said the Philadelphia Parking
The Philadelphia Daily News reported this week that Parking Authority
Parents United, along with other parent groups, has been leading a call for the Parking Authority to keep its 2004 promise to turn over $20 million to the public schools. Since a first check for $4 million was handed over in 2004, the Parking Authority hasn't sent a dollar to the public schools.
Parents United has called on the Parking Authority to
make its November 26th board meeting a check signing ceremony for the
district, to announce a plan to turn over the rest of the $20 million
owed to the schools, and to work with parents to determine a plan for
"It's shameful," said Aissia Richardson, a member of Parents United.
Helen Gym, a member of Parents United, said that parent groups are
"People are combing through the District's books, but at some level
"We're tired of excuses and blame," Gym said. "We're waiting for someone to say we can make this work."
Richardson also said the Parking Authority's attempts to decry salaries, which included all principals salaries, ignored long-standing concerns about retention of quality teachers and educators.
"We're losing personnel from our schools to higher paying suburbs just
At a Tuesday night voter forum at the African American United Fund
But when questioned why his board pays its executive director more
"That doesn't make it right," one audience member muttered."It was a very unsatisfactory answer from someone who wants to run our
city and take charge of our schools," said Gym, who attended the forum. "If you can't run the Parking Authority right, then what makes us think you can run the city properly?"
September 18, 2007
Parents to Parking Authority: Keep your promise to our schools
On September 18, the Philadelphia Daily News and Metro Philadelphia noted that the Philadelphia Parking Authority had reached an agreement to sell a property at 20th & Sansom Streets for approximately $36.7 million. The Parking Authority has made a commitment to deliver $20 million to the Philadelphia public schools over a five year period since 2005. Their contribution to date?
Parents United for Public Education today issued a call for the Philadelphia Parking Authority to use proceeds from its sale of the Sansom Street property to fulfill its commitment to the public schools. In a letter issued today to PPA Executive Director Vincent Fenerty, Parents United urged PPA to address immediate financial needs in the District, saying it must fulfill "a long overdue promise" to the schoolchildren of the city.
In 2005 the Philadelphia Parking Authority made a publicly stated commitment to give $20 million to the Philadelphia public schools over five years. Since 2004, however, PPA has not given a single dollar to the schools.
"All we expect is that the Parking Authority will simply do what it said publicly it was going to do," said Gerald Wright of Parents United for Public Education and a parent at J.S. Jenks Elementary School. "To date, it hasn't, but now, we don't see how they can say they don't have the money."
Parents United calls for the Parking Authority to not just allot funds for this year but to make up for the past three years when it did not contribute any funds to the schools.
"That would make it even in our book," Wright said. "Not generous, but even."
Parents point out that even a standard allotment of funds would stop an anticipated loss of 30 teachers expected this month. Press reports have documented dramatic overcrowding at some schools, while numerous other schools report a lack of supplies and funds for art and music programs, librarians, classroom assistants, NTA's and other support personnel.
"The situation is urgent," said Aissia Richardson, a parent at Girard Academic Music Program. "PPA has a responsibility more than ever at this time to address the fiscal needs of this District."
We will need to follow up with members of City Council and, ideally, State Sen. Vince Fumo as well as State Sen. John Perzel. Parents United will be contacting legislators for meetings to address this situation. If you are interested or have contacts with local politicians, we could use your help. Please contact Aissia Richardson at 215-236-2100 to let us know.
Read the full text of Parents United's letter to the Parking Authority here. (PDF)
September 26, 2007
District ends Aramark deal
Back in August, Parents United began raising vocal concerns about a $4 million line item in the District's late summer deficit reduction plan tagged for Aramark. Today, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the District has decided to terminate the ARA contract rather than cede to ARA's demands for a 20% increase in its $18.5 million food service contract. Parents United had argued that the District could not guarantee profit margins for corporate outfits at the expense of students. For example, the $4 million for ARA exceeded the amount it would cost to level teachers at the end of this month.
Parents United would like to thank CEO Tom Brady and other top officials at the District and SRC who said that kids would stand before contracts. Despite the termination of the ARA contract, we recognize that quality food service remains a challenge in the District and requires the support of parents and community members to build quality food programs that respect the health of our children.
September 11, 2007
Parents United for Public Education celebrates the announcement by the
Statement on the fiscal year 2008 budget deficit
Parents United for Public Education, Philadelphia Home & School Council, Eastern Philadelphia Organizing Project, and JUNTOS are deeply concerned about the priorities and decision-making process for the closure of an $80 million deficit in the district’s FY08 budget.
Over the past year, the District has heard organized and widespread calls for parent involvement from all areas of the city, including parents and education and community groups concerned about special needs, bilingual children and English language learners. In any situation regarding budgets, particularly when tens of millions of dollars are at stake, the public must have significant input. In addition, as the District lauds its recent PSSA test scores, it is imperative that it demonstrate a financial commitment to academic excellence and invest in teachers, programs and resources that work and enrich and benefit the classroom.
Yet, despite numerous calls for the School Reform Commission to remain accountable to the public, the SRC insists upon making critical decisions in the middle of a weekday afternoon, limiting public input to three minutes, and remaining at arm’s length of parents.
We ask the following:
We call upon the Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, City Council and the Mayor's office to intervene to ensure that the FY08 budget has placed the needs of students first and not political, corporate or private interests. We expect that any action on the 15th will respect the request of the parents of this District. Please contact our representatives below with any questions.
Statement on the EMO decision (6/19/08)
Statement on GCA requirements (1/15/08)
Statement on vote of No Confidence (5/29/07)