THE PHILADELPHIA STUDENT UNION RESPONDS TO SUPERINTENDENT HITE’S STATEMENT
On August 8th, Superintendent Hite released a statement in which he announced that the School District of Philadelphia “will be forced to consider alternatives to starting the 2013-14 school year”. To Dr. Hite and all of the unelected decision-makers at 440, we have been warning you of this potential outcome. When we told you that we need strong support networks in our schools, you fired our counselors. When we told you that all students need access to arts, sports, and music, you eliminated those programs. When we told you that we need resources for our schools to succeed, you handed out pink slips to nearly 4,000 school district employees. And now you feel “deeply dismayed that we are here today”? Dr. Hite, Mayor Nutter, and Governor Corbett, you brought us here. The statement Dr. Hite released repeats back to us all the losses that we told you, months ago, we could not afford.
The statement from Dr. Hite goes on to re-visit the idea of “shared sacrifices”, a not-so-subtle jab at the teachers union. We know that teachers pay out-of-pocket for many of their supplies and that they are not the reason we have been led into this crisis. Who has not been asked to “share the sacrifice”? Comcast, a beneficiary of massive corporate tax-breaks, and large non-profits, such as the University of Pennsylvania, have not been asked to give back to the city in which they have put their roots. These groups are sitting on billions of dollars that need to be appropriated to our school district. And yet, where are the brave public officials who will spearhead that request? They remain silenced by a system that puts corporate profit and greed over the needs of young people in Philadelphia. Mayor Nutter refuses to pass any legislation that would tax these groups. We need to be investigating and understanding the deep links between corporations and politicians that makes this a reality. The funding problem does not stop here. We call for a statewide funding formula that gives all schools the resources they need to provide a high-quality education to all students.
As shocking as some of us may have found Dr. Hite’s statement, there have been countless other superintendents who have released similar statements throughout the nation. Our city has been the recipient of four Broad Academy superintendents in what can only be described as a national coordinated attack on public education. The Broad Academy is a billionaire-funded venture that closely resembles Teach for America, but it trains aspiring school district superintendents instead of teachers, including our very own Dr. Hite (their full list of graduates has been pulled from their website). The Broad Academy is an initiative of the Broad Foundation, which literally wrote the book on closing public schools, School Closure Guide: Closing Schools as a Means for Addressing Budgetary Challenges.
The Chicago Teacher’s Union writes, “One of the more telling sections provides tips for effective public relations, offering detailed instructions on how to make the public feel like they are part of the process without actually listening to them. For example, the guide offers instructions for messaging to the media, offering a table of ‘ineffective statements’ and offering ‘possible alternatives’ for each. Instead of saying that ‘the district is operating in the red and this cannot continue,’ the book suggests a more effective alternative: ‘The fact that the district is operating in the red prevents us from providing the best possible educational opportunities to the children in this community in a sustained way.’” (More information on the School Closure Guide can be found here.) These statements and rhetoric are reflected in Dr. Hite’s most recent statement. Let us be clear, this most recent statement is part of a national plan.
At the end of Dr. Hite’s statement, he claims to have spoken with “stakeholders” about our “predicament”. We challenge Dr. Hite to speak with the true stakeholders in this manufactured crisis: the students. There has been no real attempt by the school district to engage communities in decision-making processes. We would like Dr. Hite to address every high school senior who is entering their final year of high school with no counselor who would have guided them through their college-application process in a building that can hardly be called a school. We would like Dr. Hite to address every incoming ninth grader, who must find their footing in a building staffed by only cops and teachers. We would like Dr. Hite to address every student in the city of Philadelphia who are all stakeholders.
And finally, Dr. Hite, if you will not address us, and we do not expect you to since you have not done so in the past, you will be hearing from us. The nation-wide assault on public education will end in Philadelphia, because the injustices that the school district continues to push forth cannot, and will not, be tolerated any longer.