Summer 2013

In this issue
Video to watch
She-ro of the day
Did you know?
Action Alert: City Hall
Graded school report cards?
Lessons from a budget battle

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Supt. William Hite, in the Public School Notebook,  Aug. 1

"The funds available to the District now "is nowhere near sufficient to open schools.  . . It's not likely we will be in a position to open schools if we don't have access to at least the revenue portion we thought we would have by now."

Video to watch
Philadelphia Slashes Schools Budget While State Spends $400 Million on New Prisons
Philadelphia Slashes Schools Budget While State Spends $400 Million on New Prisons

Parents United's Gerald Wright was featured on the Real News Network talking about Philadelphia's public school funding catastrophe. Watch him and our colleague at Teacher Action Group, Anissa Weinraub, explain Philadelphia's situation for a national audience.
Aug. 14, 5 p.m.: UNITE-HERE rally, Bellevue Hotel, Broad & Locust. 
Aug. 22, 5:30 p.m.: SRC mtg, 440 N. Broad, call 215-400-4180 to testify.
Sept. 9: School starts!
Sept. 17, 7 p.m.: Diane Ravitch to speak at Main Branch, Free Library, $15.

She-ro of the Day

City Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez led the fight this past spring to guarantee local funding for schools through the Use & Occupancy tax. Opposed by the Chamber of Commerce but gaining support from parents and communities, the tax failed to make it through Council (see "Lessons from a Budget Battle"). This summer she's back fighting for schools by calling for an independent appropriation of city funds to go to schools.
Thank you Councilwoman Quinones-Sanchez!


A U. of VA study named Gov. Corbett the most vulnerable incumbent governor in the U.S.  
A Notebook investigation found that Philadelphia lags in both local and state funding support of public education.
Of the $140 million requested as part of a state rescue package, PA has guaranteed only $2 million more than originally allotted.  
"Countdown to Calamity"



As you know it's less than 40 days till the start of school. The Notebook has started a series called " Countdown to Calamity" and despite its tabloid-ish headline, it captures exactly what parents are feeling all across the city. No guidance counselors, no assistant principals, zero dollars for any books and supplies.


It's time for the Mayor and City Council to step to the plate. The state strategy they relied upon has failed. We'll show you what parents can do to take charge of this situation below.


Also, in this newsletter: Read the outrageous statements made by a District official when parents pushed back against prioritizing a graded school report card at a time when schools are starved of resources. We don't need another way to label and sort schools. We need attention to the resources we need to fix them.


Finally, don't forget to schedule Parents United to come visit at your next HSA meeting or Open House.


It's summertime, but there's plenty of action for our schools!




Helen, Gerald, Rebecca and all of us at

Parents United for Public Education


Last June, despite hundreds of phone calls demanding a guaranteed city solution for school funding, the Mayor and City Council punted to the state. Not surprisingly, the state failed to deliver. 

Now with less than 40 days till the start of school, it's time for the Mayor and City Council to step to the plate. 



Given the surplus revenue in the budget, the Mayor can designate an appropriation to the schools that can take effect before school starts.


Call the Mayor's office and key City Council leaders to tell them: It's time for them to get to work for our schools. Call today and say:

  1. We need the Mayor to designate an appropriation of no less than $50 million and preferably more for schools.
  2. We need City Council to meet and support the Mayor's appropriation to schools.
  3. State action on the cigarette tax relies on seeing strong local advocacy and support for our schools. Council can't afford to wait for the state to act first while being bystanders to a District crisis in the making.


Mayor Michael Nutter:215-686-2181 

@Michael_Nutter (if you tweet)

Chief Education Officer Lori Shorr: 215-686-0333,

City Council President Darrell Clarke: 215-686-2070

Education Committee Chair Jannie Blackwell: 215-686-3418 







Says it all
Signe Wilkinson
Parents push back on graded school report cards

On Monday, dozens of parents headed to 440 to raise concerns about a new graded school report card to rank public and charter schools. What's wrong with graded school report cards? Plenty.
  1. Why now? We have no resources in our schools. We have less money & staff than ever, and the District's priority is to come up with a grading system to compare public and charters?
  2. We've had AYP, SPI, and a slew of entities sorting, ranking and labeling our schools for years. Instead of using these scores to fix schools and drive resources, they're used to label schools and designate them for closure or charter conversion.
  3. Charter schools and traditional public schools do not receive the same funding since charters lag public school funding by one year (that means they operate on last year's per pupil allotment). The dramatic cuts in school spending won't hit charters till next year. Is it fair to compare public v. charter now?
  4. This initiative for a graded school report card didn't come from parents. It came from the secretive Great Schools Compact with support from the controversial Dell Foundation, which invests in areas like testing and charters.

But what did the District do when parents raised these concerns? They canceled all scheduled parent meetings and said:


"An open-forum discussion on whether there should be a school report card or not was not providing us with the specific input we're looking for," Gallard said. "The input we're looking for is what should be in the report card." He said future meetings would occur in a more "structured forum."

This is "parent engagement"?


Read more:

Parents United's Rebecca Poyourow: "School report cards? Not in our name"

Lessons from a Budget Battle

This past spring, hundreds of parents rallied for fair and just funding for schools. We took to City Council, called Harrisburg and made clear that education was our top priority.

We got mixed results but learned quite a few lessons.

Among them:
  1. Timing matters: Budgets are always finalized in the last minute but laying the groundwork about school funding expectations can never happen early enough. Parents need to begin a process early this fall seeking sponsors for next year's school funding bill.
  2. Developing relationships matter: Corporate lobbyists aren't successful just because they have a lot of money. They're successful because they purposefully and relentlessly pursue elected officials and let them know that they will vote/donate/support their elected officials based on their issues. Parents must build on the work we did this past spring and let them know we're paying attention and won't drop the issue.  Erratic eruptions of civic activism amid crisis is not the same as sustained political advocacy over time.
  3. Keeping a local focus matters: I like a good Harrisburg rally as much as anyone, but let's face it. If our own local legislators are not feeling the heat to fight for us in Harrisburg, why would anyone else? Local politicians told us repeatedly to go to Harrisburg, but the sharpest thing we can do is to laser in on our local leaders in Council, the Mayor, civic leadership and the local Harrisburg delegation and hold their feet to the fire to do everything possible to fight for us in the state capitol.
Read more about what lessons we learned at "Lessons from a budget battle" on our blog!
Parents United for Public Education is an all-volunteer collective of Philadelphia parents working to make sure that children and classrooms are placed first in District and public budgets. Find out more at