CITY HALL ACTION ALERT
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.
WHAT CAN THE CITY DO?
Given the surplus revenue in the budget, the Mayor can designate an appropriation to the schools that can take effect before school starts.
WHAT CAN PARENTS DO?
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:
- We need the Mayor to designate an appropriation of no less than $50 million and preferably more for schools.
- We need City Council to meet and support the Mayor's appropriation to schools.
- 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, email@example.com
City Council President Darrell Clarke: 215-686-2070
Education Committee Chair Jannie Blackwell: 215-686-3418
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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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?
- 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"?
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.
Read more about what lessons we learned at "Lessons from a budget battle" on our blog!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.