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Funding schools with donations pits need against fairness

By the Notebook on Aug 23, 2013 05:09 PM

by Paul Jablow

Sometime in the next couple of weeks, the Bornstein family, of Mill Valley, Calif., will receive a letter asking them to pay almost $2,500 to their public school district through a local foundation.

The notice will come from Kiddo!, whose well-crafted website describes it as “made up of people like you who give generously to provide arts, technology, classroom and library aides, P.E. and innovative teaching programs for children in Mill Valley’s K-8 public schools.”

Michael Bornstein is executive director of Evolve, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that advocates for greater government support of public education, as well as affordable health care and job creation. And although he can afford it, he has mixed feelings about writing the check for his two elementary-school children.

“Philosophically,” he says, “I think this should be paid for with public funds. But on a personal level, it’s needed. Without it, there wouldn’t be art and music. Practically every parent is going to do what’s best for their kid.”

In recent weeks, many Philadelphia School District parents, mostly from schools where the population is more affluent by local standards, have also been asked to donate money to help make up for devastating budget cuts that threatened to leave schools without counselors, noontime aides, and other key personnel. At two schools, the request for donations from families included a recommended dollar amount. 

The amounts requested -- $670 per student at Meredith Elementary and $613 at Greenfield Elementary -- are modest by standards in California. There, professional-level parent fundraising has become standard since 1978, when Proposition 13 sharply reduced local governments’ and school districts’ ability to raise property taxes.

But in Philadelphia, some have started raising questions of equity, because even the sums requested by schools here would be out of reach for most parents in many schools.

At Thursday night’s public meeting of the School Reform Commission, questions were raised about a resolution accepting a $228,000 gift from the Home and School Association at Science Leadership Academy that would pay the salary and benefits for two teachers. District spokesman Fernando Gallard said he believed it was the largest gift from a parent group in recent years.

Joan Taylor, a teacher at Middle Years Alternative School, told the SRC that the gift allowed the school to set itself up as a “gated community,” apart from the District’s bare-bones budget.

“Can we now expect to see more schools or neighborhoods that are prosperous do the same?" she asked. “Knowing what we know of our governor, don’t you think he’s congratulating himself on having pushed the SLA parents to pick up the tab?”

In a statement released Wednesday, Parents United for Public Education said that “public education must remain free and available to all children regardless of background ... Schools this year may have to resort to one-time measures for an extraordinary situation, but this is neither sustainable nor in any way admirable on behalf of the District. It will inevitably lead to gross disparity among schools or a dearth of resources.

“To force parents by sheer desperation into seeking funds to ensure their high school senior has a guidance counselor, or that phones get answered in the office, or for there to be an assistant principal to help with school climate is an abdication of the District’s and the state’s core responsibility to the students and families of the city.” 

Two members of Philadelphia’s state legislative delegation also expressed concern about the donations issue.

“It’s a slippery slope,” said Rep. James Roebuck, a Central High School alumnus who contributes regularly to the school’s alumni fund, which paid for its library. “The concern I have is for parents who can’t [contribute].”

Sen. Vincent Hughes called the fundraising efforts “a commendable effort” by parents, but “the problem is when there’s a cut in resources and some communities don’t have the capacity to fund extra resources. ... The state is walking away from its responsibilities.”

‘Not the kind of fundraising we want’

Gallard said that the District wants parents, faculty, and staff to seek and make contributions to the schools. But he said a direct appeal asking for a per-child contribution “is not the kind of fundraising we want to see.”

He noted that with one exception -- Masterman High School -- every school in the District has a student population that is more than 50 percent disadvantaged and that gifts to the schools invariably help low-income students. But in schools where the parent income level is low, he said, “We have to help those principals.”

He cited the Philadelphia Burger Brawl, a fundraising effort that started at Meredith but has been expanded to buy computers for all elementary schools.

James H. “Torch” Lytle, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education and a former assistant superintendent in the District, said he also has serious reservations about depending on parent fundraising, feeling that it will almost surely contribute to inequities between schools. But he added, “If my kids were going to Greenfield, I’d be leading the fundraising.”

Lytle said he has previously warned about an increasing resources gap, not just between public and private schools but also within the public school community, with disparities among charters, selective public schools, and neighborhood schools.

“We’re testing the question of how little we can spend,” he said. “Philadelphia is becoming the poster child for the segmenting of opportunity.”

The Philadelphia School District’s official policy on donations was last revised in 2001 and does not appear to anticipate gifts that pay for staff salaries. It states that gifts to “enhance or extend the instructional program” must be approved by the School Reform Commission if they are $20,000 or more. Below that level, the SRC asks for monthly reports from each school.  

Donations for basic instructional support, such as staff salaries, date back at least to 2000, when the University of Pennsylvania began supporting Penn Alexander School. It now pays for six teachers. That precedent was cited recently by District officials when the Philadelphia School Partnership made grants to support teacher salaries at two schools.

Campaigns by home and school associations, alumni associations, and individual schools have continued to pay for “extras” ranging from supplies and the library at Central to recess programs. But more recent fund drives, brought about by budget cuts, have funded staff positions at Central, Cook-Wissahickon Elementary and now SLA.

“We never asked parents for direct contributions,” said Sheldon S. Pavel, principal at Central from 1984 until his retirement last year. “That would have divided the school.”

Pavel said the request from Meredith -- made jointly by principal Cindy Farlino and the Home and School Association -- was the first he knew of setting out a dollar figure. The request from Greenfield came directly from principal Dan Lazar.

Lazar, who could not be reached for comment, earlier told NewsWorks that he considered the request “drastic” and hoped it would not have to be repeated. Farlino did not respond to interview requests from NewsWorks and the Notebook.

‘The only option’     

To Michael Kirst, president of the California State Board of Education, organized fundraising by foundations such as Kiddo! was “the only option” after the passage of Proposition 13.

Kirst, a Stanford University education professor emeritus who headed the board from 1977 to 1981 and returned to the post in 2011, said, however, that some efforts had been made to provide for school districts with parent populations of limited means.

In some cases, including Mill Valley, donations to the foundation go to the entire district. The Bornsteins, for example, cannot earmark their contribution to their children’s school: The allocation is made by the six-school district and the foundation.

But this, Kirst said, has generally been agreed on only in districts that are “cohesive politically” and even there, “it’s a hot issue.”  For the schools in lower-income areas, California’s funding formula provides additional support.

But despite parental giving, overall school funding in California has dropped sharply. Proposition 13, Kirst said only half-jokingly, “has been better for equality and worse for quality.” In the category of school finance, the most recent state report card by the journal Education Week gives California an “F” in spending and an “A-” in equity.

That may change soon after approval of Proposition 30 last November, increasing taxes on high-income residents to fund education. Gov. Jerry Brown had campaigned for the initiative, which was expected to lose at the polls, but passed with a huge turnout of young and minority voters.

“Sometimes,” said Kirst, “things have to get really bad before they get better.”

Here in Philadelphia, Torch Lytle is simply feeling “despair” about the current situation.    

Lytle said that the District could be more “aggressive” in helping low-income parents support their schools through volunteering and “sweat equity.” But no school-based efforts can make up for the lack of government support, he said

“I don’t see the political leadership in Philadelphia taking on these issues.”

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Comments (53)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 23, 2013 5:15 pm
I have no problem with using fundraising and donations to pay for extras at a school, such as musicals, overnight field trips, and yes, sports. However, it is a sad, sad day when these funds are necessary to pay for essential staff such as counselors. I'm so sad for the students, parents, and school employees of the Philadelphia school district.
Submitted by South Philly teacher (not verified) on August 23, 2013 7:00 pm
I teach at a school which, just recently, has developed a very strong parent group. We fund raise to ensure that our students, mostly low-income, are provided with as many materials and resources as we can afford. With the budget cuts via Corbett, Nutter, and the SRC, we have had to scramble to just provide textbooks and basic supplies to our students. I have no problem with the outreach to parents who can afford to contribute. We also use as many resources as possible (Boxtops, Target, etc) to raise money for certain materials. I also am a parent of a SLA senior, and have an 8th grade student who also hopes to go to SLA in 2014. SLA and their Home & School have NEVER forced an issue of donating by parents. I am struggling to support my family, so donate time instead of money to help the school. The staff is the farthest from snobby, and are extremely dedicated to ensure that every child succeeds. I do have a problem with administrators who are setting an amount for parents to donate. It should be a fundraising effort with no pressure. Just my two cents.
Submitted by Annonym. (not verified) on August 23, 2013 9:22 pm
I have a child at a magnet school with far less affluent parents than SLA, Central and Masterman. His school has next to nothing - especially with technology. While the parents are active, they will never match the power, influence and money of parents like SLAs. Allowing some schools to buy teachers while others have nothing is extremely inequitable. Your son at SLA will have what he needs for college - my son will not. SLA can claim to help all kids but they are only helping their own by perpetuating a haves and have nots system.
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on August 24, 2013 1:50 am
The Home and School at SLA has set a precedence there that is likely not sustainable. How many years will they be able to fund the salaries of teachers? They have made the same mistake that the State, and then the District made in using grant funds to displace core funding. What happens when it is no longer there? I am happy for them, and although a little envious, I'm not joining the wagon of condemnation. The question that should be asked is whether these extra funds take anything away from the other schools. I believe the answer (at this time) is that they do not. The suggestion of "spreading it around"/levelling is actually far more damaging. Look at what happened to Title I funds which are practically invisible because they're not targeted to just the poor children.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 24, 2013 10:55 am
Well, many parents do it in desperation while their child is at the school. It is not really meant to be long-term.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on August 24, 2013 10:10 am
Right where they want you with that mentality.
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on August 24, 2013 12:41 pm
Joe is right. No matter how desperate, here're some reasons why grant funding should not displace core funding: 1. It grants an undeserved reprieve to responsible parties, that would be the State and the City. 2. It only makes a budget shortfall worse by allowing an unsustainable situation to continue. Just look at how using Federal Stimulus and State charter reimbursement funds for core funding allowed the District to get into this historic mess that they are in right now. Grants from parents are good things. My opinion is that in the case of SLA, the money would be better spent on more long term investments such as enabling teachers to develop templates to document their innovative curriculum, and investing in IT, or professional development partnerships to do such work. This would leave a legacy for the school that might even be able to be used for the District as well. Such work might even qualify for copyright protection, which would ensure another source of future funding for the school/the District.
Submitted by Mary Beth Hertz (not verified) on August 24, 2013 2:19 pm
If anyone wants to learn about teaching and learning at SLA or wants to connect with teachers from all over the country working on innovative projects and in schools of all kinds, please join us for the Educon conference held annually at SLA. Take a tour of the school, talk to students and engage in deep pedagogical discussions. It's also a huge fundraiser for our Home and School.
Submitted by concerned phila. (not verified) on August 24, 2013 3:19 pm
This is great for SLA but are SLA teachers open to learning from teachers in neighborhood schools who, as you know, have to live with a mirage of restrictions while being told "increase test scores or else!" Innovation is not limited to SLA!!!!!! (The cost of EduCon is steep - even $125 for District teachers.)
Submitted by Mary Beth Hertz (not verified) on August 24, 2013 4:20 pm
I attended Educon as a neighborhood District school teacher for 3 years before I was hired here and learned from other non-SLA Philadelphia teachers who not only attended but also presented at the conference. One of my favorite things is to hear how people are able to be innovative in the face of "increase test scores or else" within their neighborhood school. As for the cost, it is quite reasonable compared to other conferences. Unfortunately, learning costs money and the District doesn't give us a PD budget for outside conferences. For comparison, ASCD's annual conference is $300 plus the airfare to Los Angeles. ( I would love to have your voice added to the mix as to how you innovate in your classroom. I'm sure there are many who could learn from you.
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on August 26, 2013 11:02 am
Neighborhood schools have a huge advantage when applying for grants, because of the greater proportion of economically disadvantaged, and the benefits to the local community. Creativity is a huge factor in the success of these as well. Why not create a proposal that involves other neighborhood schools to document successful strategies, or create a collaborative project? Teacher initiated grants (rather than parent ones) are taken far more seriously too.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on August 26, 2013 11:50 am
All of that is fine but again, be careful about that slippery slide. They'll be telling us to pass the hat around if we let them ignore their responsibilities. These folks are shameless.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 26, 2013 9:06 am
I think you are mixing apples and oranges... SLA makes money on the educon and proceeds only go to SLA. My tax dollars go towards funding SLA and other schools. I would assume that the SLA teaching model is also work product produced by PSD employees. They should be asked to document it and provide it to other PSD teachers at no cost.
Submitted by K.R. Luebbert on August 26, 2013 9:03 am
Many teachers at SLA are generous with both formal and informal PDs for other teachers. Every teacher in the SDP (at least in this current contract) has two observation days that can be used to observe teachers and/or methods at other schools. In addition, there are free, informal PD opportunities such as TAGPhilly's ITags (Inquiry to Action Groups)--several SLA teachers have hosted ITags about their methods. If you are interested in upcoming ones, see in the fall for newly scheduled groups.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on August 25, 2013 4:49 pm
Ms. Cheng, I completely agree with your point that the SLA HSA has set a dangerous precedent. Instead of ponying up money, parent groups should be screaming at Dr. Hite and Mayor Nutter about this situation. HSAs from across the city should be descending on City Hall and 440 and demanding better. If either Dr. Hite and Mayor Nutter had some guts to take on the governor and stand up for education in this city, up to and including filing a class action lawsuit against the state for not providing a "thorough and efficient" system of public education in Philadelphia, the District wouldn't be in this predicament. Instead, Dr. Hite and Mayor Nutter would rather act like they're in bed with Corbett than standing up for the children of this city. Regarding Title I funds, I believe I have mentioned before that schools with 40% or more economically disadvantaged students qualify for Title I funds. This 40% cutoff comes from the feds, not the SDP. EGS
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on August 25, 2013 6:04 pm
That bed is very crowded with the 3 you mentioned, the SRC and their monied handlers who are pulling the strings of those puppets. Yes, it would be great to see our wonderful mayor, about whom never could enough be said, or Hite, play the morals card for a change rather than addressing their own personal needs all the time.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on August 25, 2013 7:14 pm
Joe, Nutter probably has aspirations for higher office and if he does, this District funding fiasco may well be a huge thorn in his side. And I hope it is. He hasn't had the balls to stand up to Corbett. Corbett is in danger of losing in 2014 because the suburban districts are feeling the pinch too when it comes to school funding. Instead of taxing Marcellus shale extractors, he's making everybody across the state to pay more in property taxes. The Inquirer has had some recent articles about financial issues in wealthy suburban districts. If Nutter cared, he would have been working with other elected officials to form a coalition that would lobby for more money for all children across the state. Instead, he's procrastinated and been reactive. Nutter is shameful and Dr. Hite is downright disgusting!!! EGS
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on August 25, 2013 7:42 pm
I couldn't agree with you more. They simply don't care at all about the kids and FINALLY, the people "Get it." FINALLY !!!!!!!!!! I contend that most folks can't imagine being so cold blooded as these guys so they resist that notion. Finally !!
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on August 25, 2013 8:57 pm
Hi EGS ( I thought the Mafia had silenced you -welcome back:), The 40% is the point at which schools are allowed to use Title I school wide; however, "allowed" is not the same as "required". If I "were principal for more than a day", I would use my school's Title I just for those who were economically disadvantaged. Instead, at my neighborhood elementary, these funds were used to "purchase" a teacher who in reality did administrative work for the principal. We were at 60%, so about 120 children at the enrollment low point. We got $110,000, or about $900 per child. Let's see, some science kits, educational toys, special field trips, after school swim or gymnastics, some group music/dance. The list goes on of what $900 would buy for a child that his/her middle class peers are getting that he/she isn't. What middle class parent spends $900/year on an administrative assistant?!! This misuse perpetuates the achievement gap, discourages further grants for poor children (why give more, when what is already being given is not making any difference), and gives reformers a (legitimate) reason to change the system, even privatize.
Submitted by Annonym. (not verified) on August 23, 2013 9:21 pm
Here's another example of inequity. Bodine High School for International Affairs should offer 4 years of a world language for all students - it is suppose to be a graduation requirement at the school. Instead, the principal, Deborah Jumpp - got rid of some world language teachers. Now, the students will not have 4 years of a World Language. Instead, they are rostered in art classes and test prep classes. How is this college preparatory? How is this equitable? Bodine has far fewer parents than SLA, Masterman, Central, etc. who can afford to bail out the school district. These students who are just as capable are being denied.
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on August 24, 2013 2:36 am
I believe the only reason Central can offer the world language classes that it does is because of its large student body. I'm not familiar with the student body of Bodine, but I wonder if it could be collocated with another magnet high school, or share world language teachers with one. I wonder if such sharing might have been possible had the District worked on a feasible "achievement network" system.
Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on August 25, 2013 6:51 am
Co-located? Achievement network? These are some of the building blocks of corporate reform. Bodine is a magnet school. Can you get rid of languages and replace it with test prep and still say you are offering the best to your students? Have we just become accepting of our kids having to settle for less that it would be a solution for them to have to "share" teachers with other schools?
Submitted by Annonym (not verified) on August 25, 2013 6:05 am
Thanks for your post. A niece attended a small, rural public school in New York State. The school offered 5 levels of two world languages as well as a variety of sports, music, etc. The high school had no more students than Bodine. In Philadelphia, other than Masterman, SLA, Central and Girls High, students are lucky to get two years of a world language. Why? How can a school that is suppose to be "international" only offer two years of a world language? We can not settle for Hite/Khin/SRC/Nutter/Phila School Partnership minimalist education. Zip Code and test scores should not determine who "gets" and who is left with crumbs.
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on August 25, 2013 8:27 pm
Look to see what the words mean. How many of those who are condemning the BCG report have actually read it? The management of the "achievement networks" were to be per proposals that would be accepted from teachers as well; "for profits" were excluded. The suggested number was 10, which is the same number of Assistant Superintendents Hite has established/re-established. Had there been a proposal that would cost as much as these ASs plus their requisite staff, there might have been some alternative to the "top down" flawed management that we now have. Why not have the principals of the schools in a network rotate leading a board which they comprised? Surely that would be more democratic? The networks of schools would have been allowed to choose their own curriculum also. How is that the building block of corporate reform? Right now, we share Instrumental Music teachers. We would prefer not to have to, but the City of Philadelphia, is unwilling to fund our schools at the same level as other districts (they prefer their own pensions). The State does have an "aid ratio" in place. Historically rural school districts have sued the State for inadequate funding, but unsuccessfully, the ruling being that it is up to the State to define what is "thorough and efficient". See this document: What is happening in Philadelphia is that combined factors of loss of enrollment and unforeseen charter growth coupled with a charter funding formula that does not take these factors into account, are making the District look grossly wasteful, when in fact it is not. First we need to fix this, then we need to continue to lobby to increase successful programs such as Foreign Language, and Instrumental Music. Unfortunately right now, it is all about "damage control".
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 24, 2013 9:55 am
As always, Vincent Hughes is exactly right as is Joan Taylor. The more you play this austerity game with Corbett and the rest, the better they like it, "Picking up the tab," indeed. I'm sure alumni from several of these prosperous schools have always altruistically given back but it really is a dangerous and slippery slope when you play right into the hands of a Tea Party loser like Corbett. "Elections Matter," as Hughes said back 3 years ago. Corbett is what happens when well intended people sit at home rather than vote in "Pennsyltucky."
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on August 24, 2013 9:19 am
Sorry--That was I above. JK
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 24, 2013 2:18 pm
Parents pick up the tab by paying taxes, and anyone who picks up the tab further is indeed playing right into the hands of those who use our money for other things. Fine if you want to have fund raisers for extras, but not basic ed funding, are you kidding me? The more parents buy into this the worse it'll be because you will be redefining what "public" really means.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on August 24, 2013 2:48 pm
Submitted by Tara (not verified) on August 24, 2013 6:11 pm
Exactly right. I do understand the parents' frustration and desperation, but what happens next year? Do the parents continue to pay salaries and benefits for the SLA teachers? Will they be expected to raise more in order to give the raises to the teachers? Will their admission committee start to examine parents' jobs when they are considering which students to accept? I am a little surprised that Chris Lehman would approve of this, especially since he has written about equality and fairness in public education. And this seems very elitist.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 24, 2013 9:18 am
As always, Vincent Hughes is exactly right as is Joan Taylor. The more you play this austerity game with Corbett and the rest, the better they like it, "Picking up the tab," indeed. I'm sure alumni from several of these prosperous schools have always altruistically given back but it really is a dangerous and slippery slope when you play right into the hands of a Tea Party loser like Corbett. "Elections Matter," as Hughes said back 3 years ago. Corbett is what happens when well intended people sit at home rather than vote in "Pennsyltucky."
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 24, 2013 12:08 pm
Time for schools to get back to the basics of reading, writing, math, science and history. If parents want their kids to have the "extras" in the way of sports, music, art and clubs, let the parents pay for it. Get the "extras" out of the schools and they will have more money for the basics.
Submitted by Poogie (not verified) on August 24, 2013 12:00 pm
Look you want to go to school you got to pay. In the brave new future that the SRC has planned there will be a few good charters that receive donations from parents, "philanthropists" and can get TFA kids to work for $40,000 or so. They will provide a good eduction since they can kid all the troublesome kids out to the lesser charters. The rest of the kids in the Apartheid system of the future will be stuckin small schools which pay maybe $30,000 for non certificated teachers and if you don't contribute to the school fund your kid gets no pencils. Yet the principal still has a company car. But the beauty of the system from the investors and SRC point is that it will be so Balknized that no one will car enough about the small investor owned school to close them. It will close peanuts per student. The city will spent less and less on education and will divide and rule any lesser charter parents that complain. Public education is Over. What started as White Academies in the South keep white children out of integrated public school has been adopted as the reform model for urban schools like Philadelphia to get the few middle class kids away from the kids from non-functioning urban families. Who would have thought the African American elite running Philadelphia would have travel that path?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 24, 2013 2:27 pm
Who would have thought the African American elite running Philadelphia would have travel that path? >Poogie Me. From the President on down as I've been saying (and so has Joe K). People who pay attention to politics could see ths coming for years now. Twitter folks are all giddy over Cory Booker's speech and don't have any idea how harmful his educational policies are. If it were up to him everything would be privatized and our money would be going toward any private or relgious school a parent wanted. These are not responsible Democrats as regards education, this is a new order "neo liberals." Their line is you are "holding onto the status quo," which is a good catch phrase but very misleading. "Every child should have quality teachers at any cost." That cost is very great to public school teachers and the public education institution in general, and doesn't guarantee a thing for children.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on August 24, 2013 3:13 pm
Anybody who agrees with me, needs to take all the time they want in extolling my virtues. Please continue and Thank You. I TOTALLY agree about Cory Booker. Remember no matter who's saying it, "Privatization" is code for Tyranny. It means lower wages, fewer benefits and no worker rights at all. Beware.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 24, 2013 5:30 pm
Agree of course, and I'm finding many people afraid to critque the President on certain issues too, just because they like him. He's likeable, but if you take your eye off policy there's where your confusion comes in. Super Cory reminds me of another poltician people claimed walked on water, then when he doesn't people can't figure it out. Joe and I are old school, policy before personality, although I recently watched some Nixon tapes so personality does have its merits.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 24, 2013 5:32 pm
This one is a bonafide doozy of the same ilk
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on August 24, 2013 5:15 pm
Anybody with sense can see the level of disrespect and disconnect Nutter has for the people of Phila., including the children. He fully expects to be awarded a position on "The National Stage" for his part in decimating and selling out his own people. Folks, this isn't complicated stuff--look at the facts, including Zogby holding up money for the kids until the PFT--already the lowest teaching force around--makes concessions. Get MAD--WE have a right to our feelings. I's still trying to recover from the vision of Zogby chest bumping fellow losers in Harrisburg----via Rich Migliore.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 24, 2013 4:26 pm
Anonymous 14:39 and Poogie are right on target. What we're seeing is the resegregation of the American school system with the starvation and decimation of the neighborhood schools and their replacement with private/corporate-funded charters. Take a look at the demographics of some of the most-touted Charters, like KIPP. KIPP is almost exclusively african american (and when I called to find out about it for my kid last year, the woman who answered the phone correctly assumed that I am white and suggested that my child would not really fit in at KIPP). Other charters (like Green Woods) make it really hard for poor, and disproportionately non-white, people to apply -- let alone get in -- by adopting all sorts of exclusionary tactics. And I'm going to guess that the kind of education that these schools provide are radically different from one another: From looking at their curriculum, it's clear that KIPP stresses discipline (via public shaming, exiling outliers, etc), order and what looks to me a lot like inculcating habits useful when these kids grow up and 'work for the man.' They are not taught creative habits of mind, self-directed inquiry, or to challenge authority. How is this a proper education (unless, of course, you want to train a bunch of subservient negroes. Which may indeed be what the KIPP folks and other resegregationists have in mind. And like all systems of domination that smack of neocolonialism, they are using the African American elite to advance their agenda. Fabulous.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on August 25, 2013 7:22 pm
Anonymous, You may find the following article, which includes research at a KIPP Philadelphia school, to be interesting: Charter Management Organizations and the Regulated Environment Is It Worth the Price? by Joan F. Goodman. If you don't have access to a university's databases of articles, try asking someone who is a student or works for a college or university to download this article for you. EGS
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 24, 2013 8:23 pm
When the union can't squeeze any more money out of the government, it just begs the citizens directly. Pitiful.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 25, 2013 1:55 am
Turn your brain on. We aren't the ones doing the squeezing. It's Hite who is doing it. We've worked for four years with no raise despite being near the bottom of the public PA pay scale. Pitiful are ingrates like yourself that can do nothing, but complain about Philly teachers even though they do one of the hardest jobs around. Try it some time if you think you can do better.
Submitted by Chris Randolph (not verified) on August 24, 2013 10:48 pm
I'm glad to see some teachers here with solid sense and a spine, such as the Anonymouses and Joe K. and Poogie. I'm a former public school student who appreciates the hard work by the many committed professionals I know are in the district and I banged out this commentary I have a feeling you folks (especially slamming Nutter and Booker) might like:
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 25, 2013 10:24 am
Wow- this is a great article Chris, and once again I'd llike to point out the difference between progressives who are public school advocates and neo libs like the ones described here with no conscience. Who was invited to the White House, Asean Johnson (Chicago child activist) or Kid President? A serious teacher's union president who advocates for everyone, or a teacher from Chester Upland who worked for free and was awarded a check for her school? Policy check folks.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on August 25, 2013 11:31 am
Chris------ALL concerned people should read your great article above. Thank You, JK
Submitted by Go-Eagles (not verified) on August 26, 2013 11:04 am
Chris - I read your piece, which was very well written. I read the comments section. "Instead we get what we get because both major parties have agreed that urban pubic schools and their teachers unions need to die". You've hit the nail on the head. I've made similar comments here and I get labeled a troll by Joe K. I agree with you that the city has failed to fund SDP. Yet, the state gets the blame because they are running the district. The state is funding 60% of SDP, far more than a other school districts. SDP had financial problems in the late 90's with massive deficits, which is why the state had to come in and form the SRC. There are 500 school districts in this state. I'd say that a vast majority of them are doing a pretty good job of educating kids. Yes. It could be better. I'd wager that folks outside these urban school districts don't care about the SDP's of this world. As I've said before on these threads, urban school districts are viewed as collateral damage. They are beyond repair, financially and socially. Education starts in the home. How do you fix that problem with a fractured family? It's a matter of time before Philly becomes the next Detroit. I give it a couple of years. Once again, thank you for the fine piece.
Submitted by Chris Randolph (not verified) on August 26, 2013 11:18 am
You're welcome. It appears that many people are under the impression that because the SRC is spending the money that the SRC is also in charge of raising the money, and of course that's not true. Philadelphia (with a supermajority of Democrats in City Council and a Democratic mayor and a Democratic City Controller) still sets its own tax policy, including & especially money for the PSD. I also get the impression that people don't realize the SRC is a jointly named commonwealth/city body, and yes although there's a PA majority we can see unanimous votes like the recent one to end for all intents and purposes collective bargaining and seniority for the PFT. You folks couldn't even get a free, purely symbolic vote of confidence from the city on that.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 26, 2013 11:11 am
LOTS of people have noticed the same thing about your posts. Don't blame ev erybody else. It's YOU.
Submitted by Rebecca Poyourow on August 25, 2013 6:22 pm
Note to the Notebook journalists and editors, while it is technically true that Cook-Wissahickon raised funds for a staff position, the amount raised was so vastly different than the amounts raised by the other schools listed, that I am surprised you lumped them together without some qualification. Parents were extremely concerned that there would be only one aide to staff each of three lunch hours for the 500-student school. In December 2011, the Cook-Wissahickon HSA collected $2,000 in emergency donations and allocated another $2,000 in funds for a total of $4,000 to help keep one of our lunchroom aides employed for the remaining half year. That is fundraising on a much smaller scale, by a less wealthy parent population, than that of those schools that raised funds to pay for the salary/benefits of teachers or counselors or deans of students. The question of whether fundraising should be used to pay for basic operational costs is really important--and I don't know that I have a full answer. A couple of years ago in the first waves of cuts, as a panicked parent, I believed it was a reasonable response (when coupled with political advocacy), and I worked on the drive to raise funds at our kids' school mentioned above. In the face of the gaping hole of this year's school budgets, however, I am really troubled by it. There's no way to fundraise our way out of this abyss, and even those schools that can muster hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund teaching and other staff positions will not be able to do so year after year.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on August 25, 2013 7:37 pm
Rebecca, I applaud your involvement at Cook-Wissahickon and advocacy on behalf of more funding. However, the fact that parents at Cook-Wissahickon and other schools feel compelled to raise money in order to fund positions and other essentials is wrong. If parents have to keep fundraising for essentials, then we no longer have public education. Instead of raising money, parents from various schools need to be organizing together to FILE A LAWSUIT against the Commonwealth for failing to provide a "thorough and efficient system of public education" for the children attending SDP schools. I'm not a parent so I can't sue on behalf of a child, but you can! EGS
Submitted by Rebecca Poyourow on August 26, 2013 9:33 am
EGS, I'm totally with you.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 18, 2013 10:59 am
If the government hasn't take most of my money by tax, I of course would like to fund my kids' schools. They already grab the money and they waste it in the air.
Submitted by robin (not verified) on January 27, 2015 4:26 pm

If parents have to keep fundraising for essentials, then we no longer have public education.Cheap Snapback Hats

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