BY JERRY JORDAN, President, Phila. Federation of Teachers/ Dr. William Hite, like many of his predecessors, has put forth a compelling proposal for improving the performance of our public schools. The PFT agrees with many of the ideas put forth in the Action Plan, particularly as it relates to developing richer, better-rounded curricula for our students.
The troubling part is that what could be a promising start to meaningful education reform is already jeopardized by a commitment to the “austerity model” of education reform. It doesn’t cost much to form an idea, like changing assessments of student performance or providing more challenging coursework. Providing basic classroom materials and the educators to implement these changes, however, will require a significant increase in resources.
Philadelphia’s public schools are operating under conditions that drastically undermine the effectiveness of what, on the surface, may seem to be “cost-neutral” education proposals.
Even the best professional development is little help to teachers given 10-year-old textbooks and one ream of paper per month in their classrooms. A new, less test-focused approach to measuring student achievement is necessary, but is still ineffective for raising the performance of students who don’t have access to computers, libraries and librarians.
Classes like world languages, music and art are critical components of a solid education — but instructors and materials for these programs are not cost-neutral.
Making our schools safer is much more difficult if teachers can’t count on support from the non-instructional personnel who have been lost to budget cuts.
Our neighborhood public schools are the victim of a decade of deep and sustained cuts to education funding. Over time, these cuts haven’t done anything to improve education, and have led to an exodus from Philadelphia’s public schools that have laid the groundwork for yet another round of building closures.
Without more funding, even the most-thoughtful and -comprehensive education-reform plan can never reach its full potential.