You don't want to miss today's Salon article about Tom Corbett's systematic dismantling of the Philadelphia Public School system.
Want to see a public school system in its death throes? Look no further than Philadelphia. There, the school district is facing end times, with teachers, parents and students staring into the abyss created by a state intent on destroying public education.
On Thursday the city of Philadelphia announced that it would be borrowing $50 million to give the district, just so it can open schools as planned on Sept. 9, after Superintendent William Hite threatened to keep the doors closed without a cash infusion. The schools may open without counselors, administrative staff, noon aids, nurses, librarians or even pens and paper, but hey, kids will have a place to go and sit.
The $50 million fix is just the latest band-aid for a district that is beginning to resemble a rotting bike tube, covered in old patches applied to keep it functioning just a little while longer. At some point, the entire system fails.
Things have gotten so bad that at least one school has asked parents to chip in $613 per student just so they can open with adequate services, which, if it becomes the norm, effectively defeats the purpose of equitable public education, and is entirely unreasonable to expect from the city’s poorer neighborhoods.
The needs of children are secondary, however, to a right-wing governor in Tom Corbett who remains fixated on breaking the district in order to crush the teachers union and divert money to unproven experiments like vouchers and privately run charters. If the city’s children are left uneducated and impoverished among the smoldering wreckage of a broken school system, so be it.
To be clear, the schools are in crisis because the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania refuses to fund them adequately. The state Constitution mandates that the Legislature “provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education,” but that language appears to be considered some kind of sick joke at the state capital in Harrisburg.
Philadelphia and Detroit are the victims of a manufactured crisis, created in order to serve billionaires' desires to privatize and profitize public education. As the author points out in this article, public education is a constitutionally guaranteed right that Corbett is intentionally removing from those without resources to fight back.
Meanwhile, students and teachers are doing what they can. Senior Tauheed Baukman has started a Change.org petition to draw public attention to what's going on in Philly right now. He's also volunteering in his community and at the school to get ready for the upcoming school year.
The West Philly teen also volunteers at Parkway with friends this summer to help principal Karren Dunkley get the school ready to open Sept. 9.
He has notified freshmen about orientation, put up posters in hallways, and phoned students and parents to remind them of summer reading assignments.
"I pretty much help out any way I can," Baukman said.
He deserves better. He deserves to have guidance counselors and college advisors who assist him with his essays. He deserves to have resources to access scholarship opportunities and college guides. Instead he's out in the trenches trying to get people to realize what Corbett's penchant for prisons and union-busting is doing to his community.
Philadelphia schools are being victimized by conservatives in order to do battle with their #1 enemy -- Unions. Tom Corbett, like most of his conservative governor pals, is floundering for support and looking to shore up his base. That base loathes unions. A secret Republican poll taken in June revealed that education was a concern across the state, and also that Corbett was in danger of losing his seat to a Democrat in 2014. That same poll indicated that attacking teachers and teachers' unions in the state was one way to consolidate the base around Corbett's re-election bid.
The poll suggests that Corbett, a governor who has long suffered from low public-approval ratings, condition state aid to Philadelphia schools on major union concessions and kickstart his hobbled reelection campaign with a high-profile fight against the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.
Here's the bottom line:
Also, let's not forget that conservatives are not alone in their efforts to balkanize and destroy universal public education and teacher's unions. Corporate Democrats like Cory Booker are just as anxious to reward their hedge fund pals with a new market, ripe for guaranteed profits at the expense of our kids' education.