What a week for adversaries of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS)! On July 22, Glenn Beck, the radio and TV personality, hosted "a live national night of action against the Common Core" called WE WILL NOT CONFORM and told Fox News' Sean Hannity that the Common Core was "creating millions of slaves."
Those of us concerned about public education in Philadelphia have been so caught up with the School District’s financial crisis that we have given little thought to how District and charter schools, and publicly funded schooling for the city’s kids, might be reimagined. Our priority has been filling the gaps, dealing with deficits and not possibilities.
The underlying assumption of advocates, District leadership, and elected officials is that if funding were restored for nurses and counselors, art and music teachers, smaller class sizes, preschool programs, books and supplies, and facilities improvements, then all would be well. And if additional funds were available to provide programs and services beyond the basics, then prosperity would be at hand.
Last month, Superintendent William Hite said he would consider opening the schools fully staffed and run them until the money runs out rather than institute a new round of layoffs. The School Reform Commission, in a rare display of independence and political courage, signaled it would support him.
After the budget debacle in Harrisburg, in which the governor and his supporters failed to raise substantial new revenue, it’s time for Hite, the SRC, and public education advocates to take that step.
In a stunning, come-from-behind legislative win in Harrisburg, Mayor Nutter and backers of the beleaguered Philadelphia school system managed to get a key vote last night authorizing a cigarette tax in the city to fund the schools.
Without it, there was the prospect of 1,300 layoffs and schools not opening on time in September.
In his recent Education Week article on the School District of Philadelphia’s plans to create more innovative schools, Benjamin Herold wrote: "The positive momentum, however, has not persuaded state lawmakers or the city teachers' union to heed [Superintendent William] Hite's pleas for hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue."
Now union members are to blame for not allowing Hite to spread innovation across the District, because of their refusal to give up 13 percent of their salary and benefits? I am no longer surprised to see this kind of blame-the-union narrative in the editorials of the local papers, but I was dismayed to read it in the Notebook, where Herold’s article was reprinted.
This is a call to action regarding the crisis in the School District of Philadelphia.
We are teachers at the Feltonville School of Arts and Sciences in North Philadelphia. Our school is predominantly Latino and has a large population of special education and ESL students. This is our story, but it is not exceptional.
For years, the mantra from those who think charter schools are the answer to what ails Philadelphia's schools has been “people are voting with their feet,” citing the mushrooming numbers of families who have transferred out of traditional public schools in favor of charters.
But over recent weeks, the people voted with ballots and they voted decisively against turning over their schools, Steel Elementary in Nicetown and Muñoz-Marín Elementary in Kensington, to charter school management companies.
City Council yesterday proved once again that Philadelphia’s schoolchildren come second to politicking. Instead of following through on its promise to guarantee the District at least $50 million -- a promise it made last August, when Superintendent William Hite refused to open schools otherwise -- City Council’s finance committee moved forward with a bill to halve that amount to $27 million.
It seems inconceivable for Council to behave in this manner, especially at a time when District finances have never been more dire. If City Council doesn’t move on filling the basic budget gap, the District will be forced to pass an obscene budget that will lay off staff and see class sizes go through the roof. The PR damage and the loss of internal capacity at the District is not something that can be made up even if Council were to later piece together funds over the summer.
Like most great things, the Philadelphia Public School Notebook was a concept and a vision long before it became the indispensable news forum it is today.
I still remember my first introduction – a large gymnasium in Feltonville with dozens of us in an ever-widening circle talking about a vision of an independent media outlet that would uplift the voices and concerns of parents, youth, teachers, staff, and concerned Philadelphians about our schools. I was surrounded by the most amazing and diverse array of visionaries from all over the city – longtime educators, parent organizers, community leaders, and artists – who made room for a rookie teacher like me with a bewildered political understanding about education and race politics.
We came from a variety of experiences far beyond schools: housing and criminal justice struggles, the Asian American movement, community development. The Notebook has always reminded me of how much I learned at the feet of so many of Philadelphia’s best grassroots leaders and activists.
Roxborough High School consists of two three-story buildings with long hallways connected by “bridges” at each level. My office, located on the corner of the end of one building, is a good three- to four-minute run to the end of the third floor of the adjoining building. My greatest fear as a nurse is that something will happen at the opposite end of the facility and I won’t get there in time to save someone’s life.
So I’ve met with my teachers and told them that if they are concerned about someone not breathing, they should call 911 before they call me.
In the event of a cardiac arrest, time is of the essence. A person who suffers a cardiac arrest has perhaps four or five minutes before death. What happens from the time a person codes until the paramedics arrive is crucial to the person’s survival.