Parents United for Public Education Newsletter
October 2009
Parents are Watching
Welcome to
Parents United for Public Education!
 
Welcome to the first newsletter of Parents United for Public Education, an independent group of parents fighting to make sure $3 billion of public money for the Philadelphia public schools goes where it belongs - to our classrooms! Since 2006 Parents United has been fighting for well-funded and equitable classrooms and we've helped deliver nearly $30 million in new funds to our schools. More important, we've shown that parents are not scapegoats for struggling schools but critical partners in turning them around.
 
Get to know us at our next meeting:
 
Parents United for Public Education General Meeting
Tues., October 27th
9-10:30 a.m.
Vernon House, 5800 Germantown Ave.
inside Vernon Park at Germantown & Chelten Avenues
 
Agenda: Organizing to stop budget cuts to schools
and taking action on the BRT 
 
Can't make it? Invite Parents United to your next school meeting or gathering!  Call us at 215-849-5800, or email us at parentsunitedphila@gmail.com

CLASS SIZE POLL!

The District has promised that class sizes would be lowered to no more than 25 in grades K-3. We want to know if that's happening at your school. Let us know!
 

District shortfall hits $200 million? Schools to pay $4 million, District says.

It's not pretty. At this week's SRC meeting, Budget Director Mike Masch said the District received $180 million less than they had expected from the state budget, with a total shortfall of $197 million. (Read the latest budget news at the Philadelphia Public School Notebook here.)

What's that mean for schools?
 
Remarkably, the District says most schools won't feel the pinch. Class sizes will still be reduced for every K-3 classroom and the district will keep more counselors and ELL teachers. District officials also said leveling occurred without forcing split grades or significant personnel losses from schools.
 
However, every school will see about a less than 1% reduction in their budgets - around $4 million. Few details yet on exactly what that means for schools.
 
While the District promises minimal impact this current year, there are growing concerns about the District's future budget situation. Recent history has shown why parents need to remain vigilant about school budgets. During a time when the District's budget grew to unprecedented numbers, the average district school experienced steady losses in funding and personnel. Many of our schools have yet to recover from losses of teaching personnel, aides, programs and discretionary spending.
 
We believe parents must get organized in order to demand improved spending for schools. For example, the $4 million which will come out of our schools is less than what the District is paying 80 workers from the Bureau of Revision of Taxes, whom they don't hire, don't supervise and don't audit. Our kids - their politics.
 
We'll continue to keep you up to date on these developments but we need your voices too. Information is only useful if it leads to collective action that benefits all our schools. So join our mailing list, come to a meeting, talk to other parents from other schools, and make a phone call or two to City Council this week to help cover that $4 million (See story below). It counts.
Take Action on the BRT!No Patronage
 
What are 80 employees of the Bureau of Revision of Taxes doing on the School District's payroll? That's a question Parents United has been asking for over a year.
 
This month the School District of Philadelphia, the Mayor and parent and education advocacy groups called for an end to a practice where city kids are forced to pay $4.5 million/year for 80 BRT employees who are neither hired, supervised, nor trained by the District. Instead, we've called for them to be put on the City payroll where they belong.
 
With the announcement that schools will have to pay $4 million to help cover the District's $200 million shortfall, the BRT costs are more clear than ever.
 
What's the problem? City Council apparently disagrees. Here's what they say. We need you to call and tell them what you think!
 
Councilman Bill Green: 215-686-3420
His Council bill keeps the BRT jobs at the School District.
 
Councilwoman Marian Tasco: 215-686-3454
"I don't think it's an issue for any of the Council members, just for the mayor." Philadelphia Inquirer, Oct. 8.
 
Councilman Darrell Clarke: 215-686-3442
Clarke told the media "he did not believe in a political ban for any city employees" and that "it's wrong to assume that patronage workers cannot be effective." Philadelphia Inquirer, Sept. 23.
 
Councilman Frank DiCicco: 215-686-3458
"The patronage employees become a good scapegoat . . . because they don't have the skills that are necessary to do the job correctly, through no fault of their own." Philadelphia Inquirer, Sept. 23.
 
Council President Anna Verna: 215-686-3412
Council President Anna C. Verna pledged to address the BRT's problems but declined to comment on the patronage workers. Philadelphia Inquirer, Sept. 23. 
 
Please take a moment to thank Councilman Frank Rizzo who is the first councilman to openly support the call! 215-686-3440
"Rizzo said Council must take on the issue of the school-funded patronage workers. 'If you're going to just cherry-pick and not take on the tough part, the political part, you're going to have another bureaucracy with a different name.' " Philadelphia Inquirer, Oct. 9.
Issue: 1
In This Issue
Class Size Poll
Schools to pay $4M to cover budget shortfall
Take Action on the BRT!
Parents United's
Accomplishments
 
Funding
 
  Won a campaign for over $25 million in new city funds (June 2007)
 
  Won a promise from the Phila. Parking Authority to deliver $2.2 million to the public schools and establish a permanent revenue stream for schools
(Dec. 2007)
 
  Campaigned for a historic state education funding formula (June 2008)
 
  Lobbied SEPTA and the District to preserve $6.7 million for kids transpasses (Fall 2008)
 
Academic Reform
 
  Won a campaign to provide $18+ million for reduced class size and art and music in every school. (Spring 2008)
 
  Established lower class size and art and music as "must haves", eliminated forced split grades as District policy, and made librarians, nurses and counselors top priorities for the School Reform Commission (Sept. 2007)

 Continued to call for a "baseline" school budget that provides for a quality educational program in all schools.

Accountability/ Transparency 
 
   Spring 2009: Called for removal of 80 workers from the Bureau of Revision of Taxes who are on the District payroll at $4.7 million a year.
 
   Successfully called upon the district to terminate contracts of private management companies that failed to turn around schools
(June 2008)

   Demanded a public review of major contracts, resulting in tens of millions of dollars a year in savings, including severing an $18.5 million food services contract (Fall 2007)
 
  EMO reform: Limited contract renewal to one year, reduced management fees by one-third, and forced EMOs to serve special needs students. (June 2007)
 
  Had school budgets posted on-line for the first time (June 2007).     
 
  Demanded a more transparent SRC process that resulted in evening meetings, more frequent hearings, and awareness of sunshine law violations. 
(June 2007)
 
Public Engagement 
 
  Became an independent parent advocacy voice for quality public education  
 
   Informed and engaged hundreds of parents citywide to take action at District, city and state levels on behalf of their public schools. 

  Called for community based budget hearings which have been held since January 2008.  
 
  Spearheaded a June 2007 "no confidence" vote that restored classroom teachers and led to eventual changes in District leadership.
  
  Leads media campaigns to build well-informed and organized support for public education.
Fund Our Schools
Join Our Mailing List
 
Parents United
General Meeting
 
Tues., Oct. 27th
9-10:30 a.m.
Vernon House
 
5800 Germantown Ave., in the park near Germantown Ave. & Chelten Ave.  
 
Parents United for Public Education
5800 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19144 
215-849-5800
About
Us 
 
Parents United for Public Education is an independent citywide collective of Philadelphia public school parents focused on creating an open and transparent budget process that reflects the real input of parent voices and places a fiscal priority on academic achievement and accountability in the classroom. We are committed to mobilizing parents to take an active role in school budget issues and lobbying civic and elected officials to improve public school funding and to prioritize academic achievement, accountability and public engagement.