BY JERRY JORDAN, President, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers/ The danger of being given an agenda and the authority to carry it out is that you run the risk of looking tone-deaf when you push that agenda through despite the public backlash. That is precisely what is happening here in Philadelphia, as the community’s cries to stop the closing of 37 neighborhood schools grows louder.
In this case, it is the SRC and the School District that are tone-deaf to the call for more-careful consideration of their plan to close schools, and to the requests for better explanations of the supposed cost savings of such a move.
No community wants to see its neighborhood school closed, but there’s more to the anger than that. It’s bigger than the consternation over the fact that plans were made by people who clearly are not familiar with the neighborhoods where these schools are located. It’s even bigger than the fact that the proposed cost savings are quite small, if they exist at all. No, what really has parents, students, teachers and neighbors upset is that their children’s lives are being disrupted with no indication that conditions will improve for them in their new schools.
A closer look at the Pew Charitable Trust’s “how-to” manual for closing neighborhood public schools plainly states the cost savings and the academic benefits of mass school closings are at best unclear. City Controller Alan Butkovitz raises a number of good questions about the School District’s fiscal projections and how the money saved by closing schools would be used to improve the public schools that remain.
These are the issues that the PFT and our allies in PCAPS have been raising since September, and why we — along with a growing chorus of voices — are calling for a one-year moratorium on school closings until an independently conducted impact study can be completed. Included among these voices is Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, who last week introduced a resolution calling for a moratorium on school closings. The resolution was passed by City Council 14-2.
What’s the SRC’s response to all of the questions; to the concerns of the community; to our elected officials’ call for a closer examination of the process; and to all of the evidence that states they are on the wrong track?
It’s a done deal. Or, in the words of SRC Chairman Pedro Ramos: “I’d be lying if I said a moratorium was in any way feasible.”
Perhaps the SRC thinks the public isn’t paying attention … you know, the way they’re not paying attention to the public.