31 May 2012
The Philadelphia School Reform Commission expresses a desire to introduce a plan that will, as opponents from schoolteachers, the Occupy movement and organized labor charge:
*Closes 64 schools and keeps the names secret
*Pushes 40% of our students into charters
*Turns all of our schools over to third-‐party operators
*Tells us to live with a budget that short changes our children
*Outsources jobs and school management to private companies
Chris Satullo, formerly of the Philadelphia Inquirer, expresses puzzlement as to why citizens would so forcefully and stubbornly oppose privatization of schools in the city. As I've explained in this piece, privatization brings great profits into the private corporations that are involved in it, but that's about all it does. The private corporations are the only winners in such a situation. The reason for that is that education requires a level of money and technology, clean and comfortable classrooms, up-to-date study materials and some audio-visual technology, but essentially, it's a very labor-intensive process that requires teachers and other staff members to function properly. Private enterprise brings nothing meaningful to the table.
From The Notebook:
At a raucous meeting Thursday, the School Reform Commission approved a $2.5 billion operating budget for next year that relies on more than $200 million in borrowing and counts on $94 million from the city that has yet to materialize – all to maintain a minimal level of educational services.
As Decarcerate PA points out, there are serious problems with a budget that pours hundreds of millions into more prisons while starving education and forcing the city to borrow so much. It's far from clear that the School Reform Commission is taking the only reasonable, or even a reasonable, path.
We believe in a different set of priorities for Pennsylvania. Instead of sending more people to prison, we need to address the things that funnel people into the prison system. We want quality public schools, stable housing, jobs and job training programs, health care and food access, drug and alcohol treatment programs, community-based reentry services, and non-punitive practices that address the root causes of violence in our communities. [emphasis added]
Video of protesters in front of Philadelphia School Committee building
Why would anyone oppose such reasonable and sensible proposals? Professor Paul Krugman believes he talked some British Tories into revealing their essential viewpoint, that austerity is a means of forcing society to adopt policies they'd prefer, and that it is not and never was an economically necessary policy. Krugman expands on this topic here.
Parents groups are unimpressed with the SRCs plans and detail several ways in which the SRC fails.
1. The budget fails to uphold the District’s core mission to provide essential personnel and quality instructional resources to public schools. ...
2. The District failed to include parents in decision-making. ...
3. It promotes a secretive, massive school closings plan without a full public vetting of the criteria for closing schools or a quality plan for transferring students or transforming schools. Many schools had deep concerns about the process which unfolded this past spring.
4. The FY13budget balances a $218 million deficit on the backs of children while leaving the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania off the hook to pay its fair share to schools. ...
5. Finally, the budget promotes non-public options at the expense of public ones. ...
Pennsylvania can do better!