In just a few weeks, Pennsylvania will get a new governor, Tom Wolf, who far stronger ally of public schools than his predecessor, Tom Corbett. This change in leadership is thanks in large part to the many education organizers across the state, but especially in Philadelphia, who spent the run-up to the gubernatorial elections highlighting the dire impact of Corbett's state budget cuts to schools.
Those same organizers are now gearing up for local elections, and this week, the Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools (PCAPS) threw down the gauntlet, releasing a powerful platform that unites the funding issues facing the city’s struggling schools with the need for broader social investments to support whole communities.
“For too long our city’s political leadership has settled for a two tier school system that consigns the majority of school children, most of whom are from poor families of color, to understaffed schools that lack the basic resources essential to a decent education. This situation is not inevitable but the result of political choices made by those we have elected. There is a different way.”
In the coming political battles, the PCAPS will be fighting for the following five demands:
"Support Sustainable Community Schools
Sustainable Community Schools are neighborhood public schools that provide wrap around services for students and their families, engaging curriculum, positive behavior supports, and involvement of parents and the community in school decision making. We call for 10% of Philadelphia schools to become sustainable community schools over the next four years and for federal school improvement grants to be used exclusively for that purpose.
A Moratorium on Charter School Expansion
As a first step toward genuine accountability charter schools must be regulated to insure that taxpayer dollars are spent wisely and for the purpose of education. Legislation that creates meaningful audits and transparency is necessary. Moreover charter growth creates new budget challenges in the form of stranded costs that the District can ill afford. Finally charter school policy has created an uneven playing field in which traditional public schools are disadvantaged.
Full and Fair Funding
Robust revenue and a fair funding formula from the state are essential to improving our schools, but that doesn’t mean the City can’t do more. We call for reforming the use and occupancy tax to eliminate the tax windfall large commercial interests received with the implementation of the Actual Value Initiative, elimination of tax abatements on the schools portion of the property tax, and for PILOTS for mega non-profits. We call on our city’s most powerful corporation, Comcast, to pay its fair share to fund public schools as a condition of its new franchise agreement with the city
Equal Education Means Fighting For Racial and Economic Justice
The relationship between poverty and education outcomes requires that genuine education reform is linked with the fight for economic fairness. We call for a fifteen dollar minimum wage and support for the right of all workers to organize themselves in unions. We also call for ending the school to prison pipeline, short hand for zero tolerance discipline policies, racial profiling and a racially discriminatory criminal justice system that penalize young people of color.
Local Control of Schools
State control has failed to improve our schools and violates basic democratic principles. Philadelphians must have role in selecting who should govern our schools like citizens in virtually every other community in the state. ACT 46, the state control act, must be repealed and a democratic form of governance instituted in our city."
Learn more about PCAPS and their platform here.