Saturday, February 10, 2018
Philadelphia’s Mayor’s Office of Education Responds to Demands For Transparency
from Wrench in the Gears
February 10, 2018
Last Monday, parents, teachers, and community members took to the streets outside the marble halls of Girard College to protest a closed-door event where representatives of the Mayor’s Office of Education, the Philadelphia Education Fund, and the Read by Fourth Campaign met with Chamber of Commerce affiliates about the future of business in Philadelphia’s schools. We handed out a sheet with five demands to the attendees on their way into the event and requested the Mayor’s Office of Education respond by February 9, 2018.
I share below the response we received with annotated comments. While I appreciate Mr. Hackney’s efforts to address the demands, I am left with a lack of clarity about the role private interests, corporations and non-profits, will play in shaping education policy going forward. We specifically asked the mayor to take a public stance against adaptive learning management systems for literacy and the use of Pay for Success or Social Impact Bonds to fund early childhood or K12 education and workforce development. The letter below endorses the former and says nothing about the latter, which is a serious concern. It supports the use of software in literacy but there is no mention of reduced class sizes, restoration of libraries with librarians, or reading specialists.
The letter also indicates an acceptance of closed door meetings whereby “feedback from a diverse set of stakeholders” is obtained. What stakeholders would need to meet with the mayor and his representatives in small groups outside the public eye? As we move to “local control,” that is a very important question. Will we have a version of “local control” that preferences “Big L” interests like Comcast over “little l” interests like regular parents and teachers? Who gets a seat at the table? Will community engagement drive policy development or remain an easily-dismissed charade as it was under the School Reform Commission?
For reference, these were the original demands: