Philadelphia Student Union & Youth United for Change Respond to District’s Plan
Joint Statement by the Philadelphia Student Union and Youth United for Change
In Response to the School District of Philadelphia’s School Transformation Proposal
April 24, 2012
As student organizations in this city we are deeply concerned about the proposal today to completely overhaul our District. While we understand the budget shortfalls, we question the political motivations behind the Districts decisions and their impacts on young people. On its surface this proposal seems like yet another attempt to privatize our schools. We saw what happened with Edison in 2002 and do not want to see other unaccountable entities taking over the most important role of our School District- that of running our schools.
Already we find ourselves in a district with a variety of providers and we have seen the results: warehousing students with the greatest need in the most under-funded schools. We are tired of the District using the language of improving our schools as an excuse to cut more programs, and staff. Cuts do not equal success and this model is not sustainable.
If the District wants to use New York as an example then we should look at the warnings: New York City schools have trended negatively since Mayor Bloomberg’s education policies were implemented; in 2011 NYC schools came in second to last in achievement among major cities. According to NYC DOE data, only 23% of NYC’s high school students graduate college ready; with Black and Latino youth that number drops to 13%.
We are committed to participating in the community engagement sessions that are to come and hope that the District is serious about hearing our concerns and taking the voice of students seriously. Given our history with this District, however, we are concerned that this will be another sham of community engagement. We have too much experience of having student input asked for an then ignored.
We want community involvement in creating real school transformation that goes beyond Renaissance and Charter models. We want community involvement in the when decisions are being made about school closures to ensure staff and programs that work are not decimated. We want a clear process by which schools are given support, not just a mandate to immediately improve or close. We want to know how “Achievement Networks” will be held accountable to providing the best services and supports to our schools. We want investment in teachers, counselors, restorative practices, and programs and curriculum that support students in moving to college or career.
We are counting on the School District, City Council, and members of the community to not sell our education to the highest bidder or hand-off responsibility to unaccountable organizations but rather to live up to the promise of safe, high quality schools that truly educate ALL of Philadelphia’s students, not just the ones in schools that can compete for and negotiate the best deals