I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.
Saturday, November 1, 2014
Philadelphia Public Schools and the Slow Motion Train-Wreck
Could this tragic collapse be the harbinger of what is to come for huge, urban, under-performing public school districts nationwide?
The fate of the nation's eighth largest school system hangs in the balance. Over the last thirty-three years, multiple entities have struggled to control an out-of-control school system that was swallowing massive amounts of tax revenue and growing at the teacher, support and administrative ranks on one hand, yet losing enrollments and under-performing at producing literate graduates on the other.
As this article chronicles, in 1981 after a series of devastating strikes by the teacher's union, a panel comprised of state and local appointees took control of Philadelphia's public schools.
Fast forward to 2014. Graduation rates are down, Schools are violent, classroom discipline is out of control, enrollments at traditional schools are flat or declining, while charter school enrollments have quadrupled (A moratorium on the establishment of new charter schools has been established, to boot). residents with the means to do so have enrolled their own children in private schools or they have moved to the suburbs.
Meanwhile, the average teacher salary in this district stands at $71K, with benefits it averages $110K. (These figures represent income levels that are double the median income in Philadelphia) Not too shabby! Generous as it is, however, it is unsustainable. Layoffs are underway again, and as a stop-gap measure to shore up funding, new taxes have been levied on cigarettes and an added sales tax has been levied. The district still faces an $8 Million shortfall.
So an historic, controversial decision had to be made. The contract with the union was terminated. Teachers will now have to contribute a small amount toward their own health care plans (they previously contributed $0) and pay raises are being held in abeyance. These commonsense measures that the rest of us have known as reality for the last two decades, applied to these employees, are now termed to be "Union Busting" What a joke. And what a mess.
Could this tragic collapse be the harbinger of what is to come for huge, urban, under-performing public school districts nationwide? Could this happen at smaller districts that struggle? Is it happening already? Yes, yes, and yes-these appear to be the most honest answers to these sorts of questions.
Sadly, now some on the Democratic side of the aisle are politicizing this human tragedy, and focusing their angst and blame on Republican Governor Tom Corbett, who is up for re-election this Tuesday. Yes, this one Governor, a Republican, is at fault for the last 33 years as the out-of-control, progressive liberal experiment lab, the Philadelphia Public Schools, collapse on his watch. One man's fault--yeah right. What a shame.
The silver lining? Perhaps with the upcoming election and the change of governors back to a Democrat--perhaps that will "fix" the Philly schools and save them from the common-sense, economic rescue plan applied by the Republicans and Corbett. Yay, go team!
One phrase sums that up quite well the reality of the situation-particularly for people that might think bringing in a liberal progressive to fix the three-decade long mess created by unrestrained, liberal progressive policy In Philadelphia public schools.
"Good luck with that!"