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I know this might not matter to you guys, but it would mean a lot if you took the time to watch this video. Governor Tom Corbett is cutting a huge portion of the funding from Philadelphia public schools, to the point where some schools don’t have counselors or nurses or office staff or even basic things like pencils or paper. They’ve also had to close a large number of schools in the past few years, which makes the few really good schools more crowded and less good. Not to mention the huge number of staff cuts they’ve had to make in every school. This is a huge issue, and it affects me and other Philadelphia students directly. It’s only a minute and a half, and it would help raise awareness for this huge issue. If you watch it, thank you so much!

After helping the Ferguson Public Library we need to go to Philadelphia

In one week we have helped raise over $300,000 for the Ferguson Public Library.  The outpouring of support has been epic and a wounded community has been guaranteed a safe place to turn to in its time of need.

Now we must turn our attention to the public school libraries of West and Southwest Philadelphia. Here is an op-ed that ran in the Philadelphia Inquirer last Sunday and it begins like this:

"In 1991, there were 176 certified librarians in Philadelphia public schools. This year there are 11 and only five are known to be actually doing what they were trained to do. Five librarians for the nation’s eighth-largest school district."

Additional Facts:

More than 80% of Philadelphia public schools lack a functioning library. Some 40% of students will drop out of school without graduating, and a child’s reading ability at the end of third grade is a key predictor of dropout risk.

This a complete tragedy and an absolute travesty. Can you imagine your kids going to a school without library?

The organization we need to support here is the West Philadelphia Alliance for Children (WePac)

Their mission:

to promote childhood literacy by engaging volunteers in Philadelphia public schools through re-opening and staffing libraries and academic mentoring. In our vision, every Philadelphia student will be empowered with the literacy skills vital to the success of the child and the prosperity of our community

 They have opened 17 previously closed elementary school libraries, and are currently running 12 libraries in West and Southwest Philadelphia  and they funded entirely by private dollars and provides all of its services at no cost to schools or to the School District of Philadelphia.

They currently have raised about 70% toward their modest goal of $25,000.

We came through during Thanksgiving for the people of Ferguson now let’s come through for the kids of Philadelphia this holiday season. Donate here

 Image: Principal Marjorie Neff sits in her school’s closed library, which was closed last year due to budget cuts. TOM GRALISH / Staff

Philadelphia officials vote to close 23 schools
March 8, 2013

Officials on Thursday night approved closing 23 public schools, about 10 percent of the city’s total, largely backing a plan by the school district to erase a huge budget deficit and reduce the number of underused schools.

The decision was made after the police arrested 19 protesters, including Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, charging them with disorderly conduct. The protesters blocked doorways into a meeting room in an attempt to prevent members of the School Reform Commission from entering.

The commission, a state-run body that oversees the Philadelphia schools, rejected the district’s closing plan for only 4 of 27 schools that were under discussion at Thursday’s meeting. The district will vote later on shutting two other schools.

The votes were taken during a sometimes heated three-hour meeting after some 500 protesters gathered outside district headquarters, blocking a major road in central Philadelphia.

The commission chairman, Pedro Ramos, said after the vote that the closings were “excruciating, difficult and emotional for all of us,” but that they helped to restore financial stability.

The closings were opposed by all but one of the 32 people who spoke at the meeting.

“The process by which the Philadelphia School District decided on school closures was flawed and must be rejected,” said State Representative W. Curtis Thomas.

Teachers at schools that are closing will be transferred, but some other staff members will lose their jobs.

The closings are intended to erase a budget deficit of $1.35 billion over five years.

The district cannot afford to keep open buildings that are significantly underused and in some cases require repairs that would cost millions of dollars, the district’s superintendent, William R. Hite, has argued. More than a quarter of the district’s 195,000 seats are empty.

The district had first proposed to close 37 of 237 schools, but last month reduced the number to 29 after being persuaded by some parents that the original plan would send their children to dangerous or lower-performing schools.

The plan affects elementary through high schools.

Opponents have argued that children should not be forced to attend schools in unfamiliar neighborhoods where they might be victimized as outsiders, and that academic improvements shown by some schools would be jeopardized by the upheaval.

Students at the schools to be closed will be transferred at the start of the 2013-14 school year.

Philadelphia is one of a number of major cities that have been closing schools because of falling enrollment, poor academic performance and budget deficits. New York, Chicago and Washington have closed dozens of schools in the last decade and have recently published plans to shutter dozens more.

Public school enrollments are falling as more students migrate to charter schools. In Philadelphia, the proportion of students attending charter schools jumped to 23 percent in the 2011-12 school year from 12 percent in 2004-5, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

School districts are also being hit by state budget cuts. Pennsylvania cut Philadelphia’s financing by $419 million this year. Meanwhile, the federal government has provided incentives to close schools that do not measure up to national performance standards.

But some analysts have questioned the efficacy of programs to close schools. The Pew Charitable Trusts said in a 2011 study that no district has reaped a financial windfall from selling shuttered buildings, which are often in declining neighborhoods and hard to sell.

It found 200 vacant school buildings in six cities in the summer of 2011, and said most had been empty for several years.

A study by Research for Action, a Philadelphia-based educational research group, said that most districts that close schools save money by reducing payrolls. It noted that Philadelphia’s current plan does not include laying off teachers.

Savings are limited by expenses such as transportation costs for students moved to different schools, demolition of some properties, and a drop in the market value of empty buildings in depopulated areas, the Research for Action study said.

Some community groups accuse school-closing programs of discriminating against black and Hispanic students, who represent the majority in many urban schools.

In January, activists representing six cities including Philadelphia filed a civil-rights complaint with the United States Education Department, which said it would investigate the complaints in Philadelphia, Detroit and Newark, N.J.

Source

Just as the 129 school closures in Chicago would affect largely black & Latino students, so will the Philadelphia closures. 

From the Philadelphia Student Union: There is one thing we can do now, as young people and as a city. By organizing ourselves, we can win this fight and see created safe, quality schools for all students. We are going to keep fighting the systems and individuals for whom closing schools is a priority. We will engage and uplift the voices of those that are most intimately affected by the systematic undermining of public education. We will prepare ourselves for the next round of school closures, not only because we know they are coming but because we refuse to lay down and allow public education to be destroyed in front of our eyes. 

South Philadelphia High School, taken from Broad Street. Philadelphia schools could be on the chopping block as the city’s public schools face a $300 million shortfall. Is there a a way to justify closing 23 Philadelphia public schools and laying off potentially thousands of teachers in order to build a new […]

Yes, it really is worse than it sounds. The School District of Philadelphia serves a population of students who are mostly poor and mostly black. In September, these students will go back to schools that have no music, no art, no sports, no guidance counselors, no librarians, no school nurses, and no support staff. Only ten miles down the road, a suburban school district that serves a population of students who are mostly affluent and mostly white recently completed a construction project that resulted in a brand new high-tech school building, athletic complex, and visual/performing arts center. I’m sorry, but I can’t feel anything except anger when I read about a 10-lane, 35-meter swimming pool and a digital media lab when students in Philadelphia will go back to schools that can’t afford enough freaking paper and books. As Philadelphia’s chief education officer said, “It’s an atrocity, and we should all be ashamed of ourselves if the schools open with these budgets.” (x)

If every child in the US does not have equal access to a high quality public education, then we, as a society, have failed. We have failed the children of Philadelphia and we are failing them still, and they deserve so much better than this. 

Contact info for Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett:
225 Main Capitol Bldg.
Harrisburg, PA 17120

phone: (717) 787-2500 
email: governor@pa.gov
website

Here is an infographic designed by Philadelphia-based graphic designer Jason Killinger to inform state citizens about the shocking comparison between how Pennsylvania is funding public educational facilities and how they are funding public correctional facilities.

Killinger’s design provides a side-by-side visual juxtaposition of comparable aspects of both facilities, using to-scale graphic shapes and picture graphs to compare spending, statistics, and demographics.  Having this visual aid makes the information more impactful as opposed to hearing arbitrary numbers jammed up against one another.

The background and foreground give the feeling of a city street - with the pinkish haze of exhaust from cars and buildings and the asphalt textured “ground” doubling as a prison wall.  The subject in the middle is an ambiguous figure - he could be a student or a prisoner, and based on the statistics provided, it is suggested not only is one more likely than the other, but it is the less preferrable one.

Graphics like this are quick and to-the-point.  The designer had a message and he provided a clear visual cue to support a more abstract informational content.  This is similar to the WPA’s poster project in the way artists’ renditions are becoming effective ways to publish information, and in the age of high internet traffic, images like these are as accessible as the posters of their time.

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I haven’t posted about this yet because it makes me so angry and so sad. These are excerpts from twitter of what it’s like to be in a school district that is collapsing in on itself. You can see more here.

If you’re in or around Philadelphia and would like to help, you can— uh. I don’t know. Contact the Philadelphia Student Union and see what they suggest. If you need me I will be thousands of miles away seething with incoherent rage.

The School District of Philadelphia is currently in the midst of a major budget crisis. Before the 2013-2014 school year started, the district almost didn’t open because there wasn’t enough money to operate schools safely. An emergency loan from the city of Philadelphia allowed the schools to open on time, but it was an extremely difficult year due to the doomsday budget.

It hardly seems possible, but the 2014-2015 school year is about to begin with even more budget cuts. They had to really work to find anything left to cut, but they managed to do it by eliminating transportation for many students and cutting back on cleaning services. That means this year, hundreds of students will have to walk to their filthy understaffed schools.

We don’t have enough paper and pencils, which means expensive supplies such as up-to-date textbooks and computers are pretty much out of the question. I set up a project through Donors Choose to get some much-needed technology supplies for my classroom. 

The awesome news is that The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation is funding HALF the project, but only if it’s funded by 24 August. But that’s not all! Donors Choose will match donations dollar for dollar through 29 August if you enter the code INSPIRE on the payment page. 

My students are amazing and they deserve so much better than the poor excuse for a public education that the city of Philadelphia provides. I would be grateful beyond words if you would consider making a donation for them.

The SRC needs to review their action plan from six months ago (and follow it)

By Colleen Kennedy

As the Philadelphia Inquirer reported earlier today, the School Reform Commission, the unelected, appointed body that oversees Philadelphia’s citywide school district, voted unanimously to cancel the contract that has been negotiated by its teachers. In its place, significant benefits cuts have been enacted. The School District contends that it will not be making any wage cuts, but most agree that benefits are a part of the overall package for most teachers in the district, who struggle financially. The meeting took approximately 17 minutes to conclude, and there has been an uproar on social media in the way the meeting was (not) publicized. SDP is filing with the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania preemptively, knowing all too well that the PFT will challenge the validity of the cancellation of their contract in this manner.

Proponents of the plan to throw out the PFT contract have framed the decision in numbers that the public may sympathize with more - teachers will only pay 10% or 13% percent of their current medical benefits, which amounts to almost $200 per month for the average teacher. They say it will save the cash-strapped district $50 million this year, with the potential to save it upwards of $70 million for each year after that.

SDP took to Twitter with the hashtag #SDPfacts, in order to influence the public in their direction. 

It backfired majorly, as hashtags tend to do.

And based on their very own infographic, the new benefits plan would out-scale the sacrifices of teachers out in West Chester, who receive higher wages, have more resources for their schools, and who have fewer overall challenges than the School District of Philadelphia.

In April 2014, SDP released a 564 page report outlining their goals for the district’s future. By page 6, they’ve stumbled upon territory already considered the land of broken promises. Via Superintendent Hite’s opening letter:

"As a school district – as a city – we should aspire to have all children exposed to rigorous academics, surrounded by caring adults with high expectations for them. Our goals are solidly intertwined; we cannot graduate 100 percent of students who are both college- and career ready if we do not have 100 percent of 8-year-olds reading on grade level. We cannot invest in making all schools great without 100 percent of the funding needed to educate all children. We cannot have 100 percent of our students meeting our high expectations without 100 percent of our schools having great principals and teachers. And we cannot enhance our workforce and regional economy without 100 percent of students becoming productive citizens." (Page 6)

If we cannot meet the goals of graduating all students in SDP, nor have 100% of eight year olds reading on grade level without great principals and teachers, then why are we making budgetary decisions that guarantee even more teacher and principal resignations?

Admittedly, the provisions passed today include a suspension of class size provisions of teacher contracts, as the Philadelphia Public School Notebook points out, so I guess SDP isn’t very concerned with the teachers they will lose with this plan. Nor are they concerned with the impact on retired teachers, who rely on their health plans through the PFT Health and Welfare Fund, funded by SDP.

As the Pew Research Center has noted, though millennials are overwhelmingly in love with the City of Brotherly Love, half predict they will leave before they create a family. Do we think young teachers will stay, this “shared sacrifice” that they apparently have not been contributing to thus far?

Governor Corbett released a statement today on the matter to the Inqy:

“Today’s action by the SRC will effectively close the funding gap and provide the district with the ability to hire new teachers, counselors and nurses, and secure educational resources that will benefit the students of Philadelphia.”

We all know what policies and what politicians caused the funding crisis to begin with, and we know who is responsible for policies at the School District of Philadelphia. Pennsylvania runs the district, and has maintained control since legislation was passed in 2001.

As Pew reported last year in their Philadelphia report, the district has seen an overall decrease in the student population of 12%, even taking into account the shift of students from traditional public schools to brick and mortar charter schools and cyber charter schools.

Families who can afford to avoid the abject mismanagement from top to bottom of Philadelphia’s school system by state officials are doing so, in droves.

Let’s also not forget the leaked poll from 2013 that showed the public Governor Corbett’s exploitative political agenda to pin the public against Philadelphia teachers. This isn’t exactly that hard to put together, if you’ve been paying attention at all.

Here’s the bottom line: here’s my question for Superintendent Hite and the SRC…if you aren’t going to follow the basic core values outlined in the first few pages of a 500+ page document from less than six months ago, why even write the thing? 

What a First Friday!

A word from SLAphotolab:

We would like to thank everyone who came out on Friday, December 5th; opening weekend was a smashing success! While we intended the First Friday reception to run from 6-8pm, doors remained open until 10:30 to accommodate all of the attention and energy our students work received. Many of the 46 wall prints (and hundreds on digital display) were purchased to support the growth and sustainability of this dynamic program.

If you haven’t had a chance to view the student’s work, or would like to visit the gallery again, “What We See… What We Are” is open each Saturday and Sunday between 11-4pm, now through January 18th (closed Jan. 3rd & 4th).

And because First Friday was so incredibly positive, we have several exciting events planned to draw more attention to this evolving showcase of photography. Mark your calendars!

SLAphotolab Free Photography Workshop Series - Saturday, Dec 13th (12-2pm)

The first in a series of free photography workshops open to the public will be held at Metropolitan Gallery 250 this Saturday, Dec 13th from 12-2pm. SLAphotolab students will lead workshop attendees in a series of activities and a Photo Scavenger Hunt in Rittenhouse to teach the fundamentals of photography. 

SLAphotolab Holiday Happy Hour- Thursday, Dec 18th (6-10pm)

Come out and enjoy a few cocktails in support of Science Leadership Academy’s photography program. This event is free, with a suggested donation for refreshments, and all prints on display are available for purchase at affordable prices. 100% of tax-deductible sales support the growth and sustainability of this dynamic program at SLA. 

[Metropolitan Gallery 250 is located at 250 S 18th Street, jut steps from Rittenhouse Square]

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Philadelphia: One thousand students, parents, teachers, school workers and community activists turned out to tell the School Reform Commission “Don’t close our schools” and “Moratorium now” before its vote on closing 29 public schools, March 7, 2013.

Photos: Philly IAC

Nation Piece Spells It All Out: How To Destroy A Public School System

Daniel Denvir is the best reporter I’ve seen at pointing out the long term strategies of schools privatization, and his piece in this week’s The Nation might be his best yet. I strongly urge you to read it all, because the issue is too complex for bullet points:

In 2010, State Attorney General Tom Corbett was elected as governor, his political network heavily populated by advocates for private-sector education reform. Backed by a conservative state legislature, Corbett cut about $860 million from public education in his first budget rather than tax the state’s booming natural-gas industry. He also expanded Pennsylvania’s “voucher lite” programs, popular among conservatives, which provide corporations with major tax credits in exchange for donations for private-school tuition.

“This budget sorts the must-haves from the nice-to-haves,” Corbett told the Legislature during his March 2011 budget address. “I am here to say that education cannot be the only industry exempt from recession.” Philadelphia was forced to eliminate more than 3,500 teacher and staff positions. The crisis also set off the most aggressive privatization campaign since the state takeover, embodied by the so-called “Blueprint for Transformation” plan.

read more http://goo.gl/ZM0KD1

Nation Piece Spells It All Out: How To Destroy A Public School System

Daniel Denvir is the best reporter I’ve seen at pointing out the long term strategies of schools privatization, and his piece in this week’s The Nation might be his best yet. I strongly urge you to read it all, because the issue is too complex for bullet points:

In 2010, State Attorney General Tom Corbett was elected as governor, his political network heavily populated by advocates for private-sector education reform. Backed by a conservative state legislature, Corbett cut about $860 million from public education in his first budget rather than tax the state’s booming natural-gas industry. He also expanded Pennsylvania’s “voucher lite” programs, popular among conservatives, which provide corporations with major tax credits in exchange for donations for private-school tuition.

“This budget sorts the must-haves from the nice-to-haves,” Corbett told the Legislature during his March 2011 budget address. “I am here to say that education cannot be the only industry exempt from recession.” Philadelphia was forced to eliminate more than 3,500 teacher and staff positions. The crisis also set off the most aggressive privatization campaign since the state takeover, embodied by the so-called “Blueprint for Transformation” plan.

read more http://goo.gl/ZM0KD1

Philadelphia public schools are suffering under severe funding problems. Aside from the almost 4000 people who will lose their jobs, these schools are becoming a less and less safe space for kids to be.

Who suffers the most from this sort of thing? ESL students, disabled students, poor students, LGBT and troubled youth who will now not have the resources they need to thrive. This is appalling.