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Philadelphia's Charter School Expansion Crushing Public Schools


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Kit
- 690 days ago - commondreams.org
Charter school expansion in Philadelphia has 37 public schools--nearly one in six--slated for the chopping block come June, and has sparked outrage in local communities.



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Kit B. (276)
Monday December 31, 2012, 8:42 pm
(photo: Kara Newhouse)

Charter school expansion in Philadelphia has 37 public schools—nearly one in six—slated for the chopping block come June, and has sparked outrage in local communities.

Critics of the mass school closures plan argue that it will take students away from their own communities, that there is no proof the students will receive better education, and that it is ultimately a privatization plan that siphons money away from public institutions and puts it into charter schools.

The New York Times called the plan "an unprecedented downsizing" that would affect "17,000 students and more than 1,100 teachers."

The Times continues:

The proposed cuts — which are scheduled to be voted on in March by the School Reform Commission, a state organization that oversees the district — have ignited angry protests from teachers, students and parents. They argue that children, particularly in their elementary years, should not be forced to attend school outside their neighborhoods; that academic improvements would be disrupted; and that students attending new schools would be victimized because of longstanding inter-neighborhood rivalries.

Students at the affected schools brought their concerns over the closures to City Hall on Friday, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports:

"I feel down," said Shemar Bates, 11, a sixth grader at Duckrey, in North Philadelphia on the edge of Temple University's campus. "I feel shocked. I don't want them to close my school." [...]

"Please, Mayor Nutter, think of us as your own children," said Khyrie Brown, 12, a seventh grader at L.P. Hill in Strawberry Mansion. "Don't forget, we all have dreams." [...]

"I think you should save our school," one Duckrey student wrote. "I think this is because our school is a part of my family history."

The Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools, a grassroots group that launched a campaign "in response to a massive privatization effort led by corporate interests seeking to implement failed education policies," has countered the School Reform Commission plans with a blueprint (pdf) of their own the group says would improve every school. While the closings are portrayed as necessary due to the city's "fiscal crisis," PCAPS says that the "crisis" can be easily fixed by:

Restoring state funds that were cut by Gov. Tom Corbett.

Funding Philadelphia schools equitably, through use of the funding formula enacted in 2008.

Stopping the expansion of charter schools, and closing all charters that fail to both demonstrate superior performance in educating all students and provide an innovative educational model that is unavailable in district schools.

Reallocating funding from lower-priority projects, such as the governor’s expansion of the Pennsylvania prison system.

Helen Gym, a co-founder of Parents United for Public Education, writes that the track record out of other cities that have closed neighborhood schools while expanding charter schools in the name of addressing fiscal crises should serve as a warning to Philadelphia:

In Chicago, an internal document leaked to the press showed how school administrators there failed to inform the public of associated transition costs for closing and consolidating a proposed 95 public schools. Administrators had contended that the school closings would save between $140 million and $675 million over 10 years. However, the document showed that District officials estimated that they would lose a huge portion of those savings because of an “upfront cash investment” of anywhere between $155 million and a whopping $450 million in personnel, transportation and safety costs.

How can our District state that the proposed school closings will save enough money to make it worth the chaos when it hasn't publicly shown its calculations and accounting for all the expenses?

The sale of school buildings also has questionable value. A 2011 Pew study of six school districts nationwide found that most districts overestimate the amount of money they expect to gain from school sales. Many buildings stand idle for years and contribute to neighborhood blight. Indeed, the recent announced sales of three Philadelphia school buildings reaffirm that fact. The schools earned little more than 60 percent of market value. One of the schools sat on the market for a decade. Another school, Muhr Elementary, sold for $150,000, less than half its market value of $360,000.

Finally, the District has failed to demonstrate the most important factor in closing and consolidating schools – that we end up with a school system stronger and in better shape than the one we’re trying to repair. The numbers don’t lie on the academic impact of school closings nationwide. Numerous studies have shown school closings have little impact on student achievement. Over the last decade, Chicago has closed down nearly 100 public schools. According to a 2009 study by the Consortium on Chicago School Research, 82 percent of students simply moved from one underperforming school to another, including schools on academic probation.

And Black Agenda Report's Bruce A. Dixon wrote previously on how, while the charter school push/public school privatization plans are hardly limited to the city of Philadelphia, the issue has received scant media attention:

The fix has been in for a long time, and not just in Philadelphia. Philly's school problems are anything but unique. The city has a lot of poor and black children. Our ruling classes don't want to invest in educating these young people, preferring instead to track into lifetimes of insecure, low-wage labor and/or prison. Our elites don't need a populace educated in critical thinking. So low-cost holding tanks that deliver standardized lessons and tests, via computer if possible, operated by profit-making “educational entrepreneurs” are the way to go. The business class can pocket the money which used to pay for teachers' and custodians' retirement and health benefits, for music and literature and gym classes, for sports and science labs and theater and all that other stuff that used to be wasted on public school children.

The national vision of ruling Democrats and Republicans and the elites who fund them is to starve, discredit, denounce and strangle public education. Philly and its children, parents, communities and teachers are only the latest victims of business-class school reform. And they won't be the last.

One of the recent CEO's of Philadelphia Public Schools was a guy from Chicago named Paul Vallas. Vallas's previous job was head of Chicago's Public Schools where his “innovations” included military charter schools and wholesale school closings to get around local laws that school parent councils veto power over the appointment of principals. Vallas was succeeded by Arne Duncan, now Secretary of Education, and arrived in Philly in 2002. As CEO of Philly schools he closed and privatized chunks of 40 schools, leaving town for post-Katrina New Orleans where he closed more than 100 public schools and fired every last teacher, custodian and staff person to create a business-friendly citywide charter school experiment. After his post-Katrina destruction of New Orleans public education, Vallas went to post-earthquake Haiti to commit heaven only knows what atrocity on the corpse of public education there.

* * *

Local news ABC6 has video from parents and students speaking out against the closures at the School Reform Commission's first meeting on Dec. 20:
***See Video at VISIT SITE ***


By: Andrea Germanos, staff writer | Common Dreams|
 

CarrieSICK B. (315)
Tuesday January 1, 2013, 10:35 am
It's frightening to think we are losing the public schools our children so desperately need. Is education going to be for just a few as it was in previous centuries?
 

Nancy M. (202)
Tuesday January 1, 2013, 10:48 am
Here in Indiana, public schools have to "pass the test" and yet charter schools do not. Isn't the whole point of laternate schools to give a "better" education? Oh yeah, then there is that evolution thing, that sex education thing, etc.
 

Kit B. (276)
Tuesday January 1, 2013, 11:30 am

Education is still paid for by taxation, therefore it is up to each taxpayer to get informed about just exactly what is happening in education, prisons, and many other areas that have been "privatized" while still gaining money from taxes as if it were public. We want our children and grand children educated so they may achieve their maximum potential in life, by not being aware of what is happening we are giving the go ahead to these so called private/public institutions that offer little to society as a whole.

Question the schools in your area, question the expense of testing and learn that testing is nothing but wasted tax payer money that may indeed feed the coffers of private companies but in no way benefits the education of the student.
 

Nancy M. (202)
Tuesday January 1, 2013, 12:04 pm
I understand that. Those charter school vouchers, etc. are still my tax money and yours.

Same is true of so many things. I never did understand when I first saw private school bus companies back in the 1990s. Everyone said ti was cheaper. How can that be? It's all about paying someone else and thus they are likely paying much lower wages without benefits.

(not that that affects education)
 

Kit B. (276)
Tuesday January 1, 2013, 12:06 pm

It reminds me of the "shell game" any thing that works to deceive a willing public.
 

Nancy M. (202)
Tuesday January 1, 2013, 12:07 pm
I also didn't havce much of a problem with "tests". In some ways I believe in it. NY State, where I grew up, had a state wide curriculum and state wide regents exams at the end of each class (well almost) in High school. I viewed it as a mini-A level type exam. Good thing adn we were well prepared for college. When I was in school, you did not have to take them if you were not planning n HS.

Now, they are mandatory and many students fail and then apply for a ged. Where is the sense in that.

In any case, my broher in law teaches in an elementary school. Every week, several tests. NO time to really learn. Just the test after test after test. Plus in his case, the time to grade them.
 

Nancy M. (202)
Tuesday January 1, 2013, 12:08 pm
Shell Game. I am now wondering about all those rich people saying they should be taxed more. Is this another shell game/? Pay no attention to the real problem which is that they aren't paying enough?
 

Kit B. (276)
Tuesday January 1, 2013, 12:55 pm

The "official" tests do not really address the curriculum, just a compilation of nonsense for school districts to pay for. I'm also irritated by the endless commercials on TV by OIL and GAS companies promoting their involvement with our schools. Why are they even allowed to speak about the educational system? They poison our air, water, soils and now our schools and we should be --- what? Grateful?

When I was in school we had tests that directly addressed curriculum. Those were of course difficult for some and not so much for others. We also had on campus tutorials by teachers and those students able and willing to tutor others. The current tests are meaningless for the subject content learned by the students.
 

Nancy M. (202)
Tuesday January 1, 2013, 1:13 pm
I hadn't realized that. Of course, there are tests that test skills and not necessarily "content". if I dare use that word.
 

Dorothy N. (63)
Tuesday January 1, 2013, 10:03 pm
Thanks for yet another great posting, Kit!

Public property and public services belong to the public - no official has the right to dispose of these for the profit of private enterprise, to the loss of the public in perpetuity.

And the final step toward elimination of the concept of equal rights to a solid, basic, fact-based education for all is taken...
 

Heidi Aubrey (16)
Tuesday January 1, 2013, 11:31 pm
I don't like Charter Schools. For many reason, but the ones that immediately come to mind, is the teacher DOES NOT require state liscensure to teach as all public schools do. The continuing education requirement is little more than a vacation/tax write off. Where as the publick shcool teacher must attend and show to the education board of that state the specific curriculum covered and must be in line with the states requirements.

I Have known teachers at charter schools who don't even have degrees. They can teach creationism. They can teach a specific religion over another and no, its not predominantly Christianity that I have seen this with. The religious trend being taught in majority is Islam(suprise!). They are also notorious for grade inflation because it is making money on passing illiterates not for failing them.
 

Gloria picchetti (299)
Wednesday January 2, 2013, 6:41 am
If I had children I would be terrified of the charter school movement.
 

Michael Kirkby (86)
Wednesday January 2, 2013, 9:40 am
Sounds like three card Monte on the boulevard in New Orleans or Brooklyn for that matter.
 
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