“Why keep building jails? We are not going to jail. We are going to college.” This was eloquently expressed by a member of the Philadelphia Student Union who is a student at Benjamin Franklin High School. Her description of a classroom with 45 students where some are sitting on the floor and the radiators is one of the many reasons that brought students, educators, and advocates outside of the Union League located at 140 South Broad Street. Bring the Noise! Disrupting Corporate Educational Reform in Philly stood outside chanting and speaking about the state of public education in Philadelphia.
All of the Above: How Donors can Expand a City’s Great Schools is a two-day conference at the Union League that ends tomorrow, October 1, 2013 at 2:15 pm. It is hosted by Delaware Valley Grantmakers and Cities for Education Entrepreneurship Trust (CEE-Trust). None of the attendees represented the School District of Philadelphia and its students or employees. It is as if the 149,000 faces of the SDP are invisible and worst, unimportant. In fact, attendance is restricted to those who contributed at least $50,000 in charitable contributions. One attendee politely informed me on the steps that, “Teach for America teachers are the only teachers that really teach.”
“American Education has a long history of infatuation with fads and ill-considered ideas. The current obsession with making our schools work like a business may be the worst of them, for it threatens to destroy public education. Who will Stand up to the tycoons and politicians and tell them so?” (Ravitch)
Students from Masterman, Edison, and Franklin wonder when money will stop flowing to prisons and start funding basic services at their schools. They have valid concerns about applications for high school and college. They believe in their teachers and would like for them to not feel the pressure of oversized classrooms, no or itinerant counselors, no libraries, no art, and no guarantee of a job. There is talk on social networks of emails that went out informing staff that some teachers may be laid off soon.
Privatization may appear like it is offering choice, but its inherent goal is not to educate the masses. Its goal is to make the pathway to prison even easier by creating an even more severe creaming process that teaches some students and relegates some to the sidelines. Privatization may appear as if it is a solution for poor and minority children, but it simply divides and conquers. I challenge you to look up each of the participants at the aforementioned event and follow the money. When you follow the money, you will begin to see that it is in the hands of the 1% who do not support collective bargaining and believe that all teachers are the same regardless of experience and education. They are also the ones who are not paying their fair share of taxes, which led us down this dark road in the first place.
“Our schools will not improve if we continue to close neighborhood schools in the name of reform. Neighborhood schools are often the anchors of their communities, a steady presence that helps to cement the bond of community among neighbors.” (Ravitch)
If you don’t believe me, believe the students. Children always deserve better than petty politics and decisions that value prisons over quality education. Why spend $36,000 per inmate per year of incarceration when you can provide a top-rate education instead?