Philadelphia Public School Closing: Gearing Up To Continue the Fight
Over the last three weeks the PCAPS steering committee has been meeting to sum up our work over the last year and plan the next steps in our fight to win quality public education for all children.
PCAPS is not going away. The fourteen organizations represented on the steering committee were unanimous in deciding we need to continue as a coalition. Our fight against school closures, while falling short of winning a moratorium, has changed the conversation about education reform in our city, drawn hundreds of people into the struggle and built power to move forward.
Strategically PCAPS will focus on three related campaigns over the next period:
The fight to fund our schools – Our focus must be getting the resources that children need, demanding the state and the city raise revenue by reordering priorities and making corporations pay their fair share.
At the state level in the immediate period we want to focus on passing the Roebuck bill on charter school accountability which, by changing the funding formula for charters, will generate more money. Longer term we want to work with allies across the state to reverse the Corbett austerity budget.
Locally our focus will be to develop a campaign around making large non-profits shoulder some of the burden of paying for education and city services. We also want to organize around making changes in the use and occupancy tax which can shift some of the tax burden from small businesses and residents to large commercial property owners.
Charter School Accountablity When it comes to charter schools and traditional District schools there is an uneven playing field in Philadelphia. Charters operate with little oversight and have the support of a well funded, corporate lobby. The inequities in this system must be addressed.
The Roebuck bill is a good first step here. We also see pressing for an end to restrictive enrollment and selective retentions policies, due process for students, parents and employees and, until these reforms are enacted, no new charter schools or seats should be approved.
Community Schools This campaign grows out of the school closure fight. Using under utilized buildings to house programs and services than benefit neighborhoods and families is a practical alternative to closing school. Our campaign will focus on building partnerships and developing a pilot program that could be launched in the Fall.
Change in PCAPS structure
Taking into account some of the weaknesses of our structure over the last year,
the steering committee decided to create a new structure that would draw the base of PCAPS into planning and building these fights while retaining our character as a coalition of organizations. We believe this will make our coalition stronger by increasing our capacity and bringing in new leadership.
Task Force Structure We will create a task force for each of the three campaigns with broad responsibility for shaping each campaign in conjunction with the steering committee. Each task force will be led by members of the steering committee which also will collectively review the work of the task force. Each task force will be open to all members of PCAPS organizations as well as individuals who want to work on these campaigns. The task forces will replace the monthly general membership meetings. The existing steering committee structure will continue.
A large meeting for April 17th, 5:30 pm at SEIU 1201 Union Hall, 455 N.5th St. to launch these task forces and the related campaigns. Each member organization has pledged to recruit at least five people to come and join in this work. We want to encourage individuals as well to come and reach out to people who you think want to be part of this effort. A flyer will be available shortly.