Philadelphia public schools are the victim of a weird and evil set of priorities. In this interview, Philadelphia Mayor Nutter attempts to explain why public schools are being closed due to state cuts at the same time the state has found $400 million to build yet another prison.
Nutter argued that Philadelphia’s school system would not suffer from the closures because of the expansion of charter schools in the city, which he insisted were still public schools. He dismissed the argument that charter schools have often been criticized for their lack of accountability, and added, “My job is to make sure we have a system of great schools all across the city of Philadelphia…and that the election officials are providing the proper funding for a high-quality education regardless of what school a parent decides to send their child to.”
About those charter schools, Mayor Nutter...Let's talk about one charter operator in particular -- ASPIRA. The ASPIRA network boasts of building Latino leaders for the future. It is a charter school network which claims to reduce gang affiliation and dropout rates, while encouraging students to serve their communities. These are admirable goals, particularly for a charter school operator which is public, more or less.
ASPIRA runs one high school in Philadelphia. The teachers in that school are trying to organize and join the American Federation of Teachers. This is partly in order to do battle with those who think closing schools and building prisons is a good thing. It is also because there should be a counterweight to the corporate-think endemic in charter schools. If education is the goal of ASPIRA and other charter operators, allowing teachers to organize should not be a problem, right?
Wrong. ASPIRA, a non-profit organization, has committed $400,000 to fight back against any effort on the part of teachers to organize in the schools they manage. In a climate where schools in Philadelphia are closing on a daily basis, a not-for-profit charter school operator is committing nearly half a million dollars? That raises a couple of key questions for me. Who is funding that battle on behalf of ASPIRA and why aren't they spending those funds on educating children?
Teachers aren't bending under the threat. You can help them by signing the petition at MoveOn.org. Here is their statement:
A teacher’s working conditions are a student’s learning conditions. In order to make improvements in schools, teachers must be free to speak out, to advocate for their students, and to work together to ensure an environment that promotes learning. All school staff and students deserve security and consistency.
That's why staff at Olney Charter High School have come together to form a union. The dedicated Olney staff are committed to building a strong voice to advocate for important improvements for themselves and their students. It is shameful that ASPIRA, which receives public tax dollars, has decided to spend education resources on anti-union lawyers and delay tactics. Join us now in telling ASPIRA to stop spending education dollars to interfere with staff's right to form a union, and start working with staff to create the best possible education for students.
Schools, not prisons. Books, not union-busting. This is not rocket science. It's sound social policy.