To: School Reform Commission
440 North Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19130
May 1, 2012
Dear members of the School Reform Commission,
My name is Brian Cohen and I am a math teacher in the School District of Philadelphia. I am writing you to express a deep concern shared by many colleagues of mine regarding the proposed plan to dismantle the public school system into several “achievement networks.” As a strong advocate for the ideals of public education, I believe this action will cause our city to neglect those individuals in most need of help by siphoning resources away from them.
The proposed idea that groups of schools will be able to achieve learning goals on a smaller scale seems without grounding in research. A similar model was attempted in New York City in recent years yet ultimately failed even though the budget was doubled. So far this year budgets have been slashed so much that key members of staff at schools have been cut, leaving some (like my school) with a nurse only two days a week. Maintenance staff has been reduced to levels so low that bathrooms remain locked and buildings themselves need to close earlier. On these grounds alone this plan seems baseless.
I find it difficult to believe that the organizations that will take over these portfolios of schools will be evaluated well to ensure equity. With more cuts to come for the central offices, how can accountability feasibly be guaranteed? This plan reeks of exclusivity to me: those in power will create smaller systems that are magnificent, leaving those “have-nots” with less-than-desirable managers working with them.
I urge you to consider other options. We teachers are here, ready to help with the plans. Other stakeholders want to make suggestions as well. Take our advice, not our children’s futures.