tv The Stream Al Jazeera November 5, 2013 7:30pm-8:01pm EST
a. >> hi, i'm lisa fletcher, and you're in "the stream." 24 city schools are shut up to and thousands of staffers out of work. what's the future of public education in philadelphia? our digital producer is here, and he's got your live feedback throughout the entire show, so keep feeding him for the next half hour. we're not talking about chump change, a $300 million shortfall.
>> this is aving future generations, a tragedy happening in america. we have a lot of philly folks tweetingting in. here's piper: stewart says: as we see that the people suffer regular the kids. >> no doubt. and we'll be getting into it as much as we can in the next half hour. two dozen schools shut down in fell fill and thousands of staff laid off. the result of a $1 billion cut in the education budget on governor tom corbett's watch. though the impact is statewide, fell fill is taking a disproportionate hit. the city teaches 10% of the
students, but is absorbing 25% of the cuts. parents clean that it means longer walks to other schools and closing down classrooms. a 12-year-old girl complained of not feeling well at school, died of an asthma attack when she got home. had there been a school nurse to intervene, her life may have been saved. what does this mean for the future of education in philadelphia? a reporter on the philadelphia city paper, our activist, shiron snyder, and a history teacher in philadelphia. these things don't happen overnight, and they're not the result of one person. so walk us down the road that you think got the philly school district into this current mess. >> well, it's really a
long-running crisis in the fact that large school systems like philadelphia, have a large fon-white student body have have been underfunded for years, and enormous cuts, and we have seen in the last ten years, the state control of the philly schools, the state took over a decade ago, and the rapid expansion of charter schools, and for each student that enrolls in charter schools, that costs the district an estimated $7,000. so the rapid unchecked growth of charter schools, combined with the enormous cuts to public education, under republican governor, tom corbett, has made an unfair situation catastrophic. >> you work in three schools in
the city, and give us your perspective. how is it affecting the parents, the kids, your colleagues. >> well, i've been lucky enough to be in three different situations. one of the situations was in a community where parents didn't really have finances and weren't able to support the schools, and they're not supposed to. the students really suffered. some of the parents can't afford to send their kids to school with school supplies, and as a result, the teachers picking up the costs of the basic school supplies, and the schools trying to do the best they can with fund. and now, which is high performing, and has a somewhat privileged group of parents that are able to help support those students. this is very unusual for this
district. there are only a few schools where the parents can actually help financially support the kids. the end result is that a lot of my colleagues are working with classrooms that have more than 35 kids in the classroom, and no aid, no support. we don't have councilors in the majority of the buildings. and most schools only have nurses two days a week. so our resources are really stretched, and we're being asked to do a lot more with a lot less. >> lauren, our community seems to disagree. the community of pennsylvania: mark says: and then we got this that just came in: i'm going to read you guys from
the philadelphia constitution. it says: we have you here, and we just heard the constitution. who or what has failed the school system so thoroughly? >> i also want to thank you for doing this show, and i'm sorry that i'm not with all of you onset. but there are three things here. number one, corbett has totally and completely abdicated responsibility here, and he manufactured a crisis where they have cut the funding for schools throughout the state, but the cut is disproportionate to philly. for example, the rest of the
students in the state took a 10% cut and philly took a 25% cut and that's a problem in and of itself that the kids who need the most have gotten the least. if you walk around the country, you have charter schools that work sometimes side-by-side with the public schools, but in philadelphia, the charter schools do no better, and probably do worse than public schools. any time a charter school is open, it pays it takes $7,000 away from the children who are in the public schools right now. >> randy, you are president of the american federation of teachers. our bad, and good to have you. and you mentioned -- >> let me just say one more thing. here you have the state, the first thing is that the state took over the philly school system over 15 years ago, and they have left the felly school system with a huge deficit which
they are not trying to help with, and instead are starving the kids out of an education. >> there's a $3 million budget gap. and it didn't happen overnight. you mentioned that this is a manufactured crisis. how is a $300 million gap a manufactured increase? >> because between the cut to school aid that has happened from harrisburg, the diversion of assets that should be going to public school children in traditional public schools, i'm pretty agnostic, but you can't take from one group of kids to give to another. you have to create an investment to give to all kids. and in the third, the state controls the school system. so the $300 million deficit is a deficit that the state, under
corbett and other governors, have created. so what we have here, the governor, i think, we saw that this in a poll that they secretly took, that they wanted to bring the deficit that they created on the teachers, who already get paid 20% less than the teachers in the suburbs. >> randy is chiming in: david says: we have a high school student, and listen, you're the one living through this every day, and talk to us about how these cuts affect you in your daily life as a student.
>> they should be filling out college applications, and we have like 1,000 students in our school with one councilor. and she's a very good councilor, but there are so many students at one school, she can't get to everyone like she wants to, but she's trying her hardest. and the crowded hallways, it's impossible. because of the budget cuts, -- >> do you see a disproportionate impact on black and latino students? >> oh, most definitely. if you look at the statistics in the city, the children who go to school in philadelphia are much more diverse than the children growing up in the suburbs. i went to school in the suburbs, and my education was very different. i definitely think there's a disproportionate hit on certain communities. for example, my first two year,
i worked in a mostly latino community. and we had abundant money five years ago from state funding, and it was used, but not used wisely, and i think that a lot of parents were not able to advocate for their students because just leashing how the social services work currently in america, and as a result, the children suffered. and it's really unfortunate. >> we have a statement from fell fill mayor nutter's press secretary, and it says that the mayor has called upon the ledge accelerate to adopt a new state education formula. he urged the city council to adopt legislation in the funding stream. and it would bring hundreds of millions of dollars to the school district in the coming years, and he has urged private donations. randy, you were critical of state government and government in general in the crisis of city schools, and has mayor nutter
not done his part? >> i think initially, he has not done his part. but what has happened in the last few weeks, warning new funding for the public schools, and i appreciate that, and we're zeroing in on the fact that the school system is state controlled and has been for 15 years, and it was governor corbett that cut the fund. now, i wish that the mayor was more of a champion of the schools and of the public schools that the kids in philly go to. he actually tried to stop the 24 schools from being closed. but the student that was on it said it right. if we close our eyes and say, i want my kids to go to college, but we don't have guidance
councilors to guide them that way. and we want our kids to be healthy but we don't have school nurses. i want kids to have all sorts of programs, but we don't do the ap programs. we have schools with classes of 40. and that's the abdication of responsibility. we're not talking about detroit. we're talking about a city that has tremendous assets now that people want to move into. so what you see here is a governor that has basically said, i'm going to cut the budget for schools, and i'm not going to fund governor rendell's formula that was actually supposed to give kids with the least the most. and that's why we have gotten -- we're so angry about the abdication of responsibility, the starving of schools to that a republican governor like corbett can say, the schools don't work, you need to have private alternatives. and that's the abdication of responsibility. >> sorry, you're really angry
about this. and you mentioned being a champion of the schools, which made me think about the new york city mayor in waiting essentially tonight. phil deblazio. and i read that he's considering bringing you on as the city's next school chancellor. you're not a huge fan of charter schools or reforms that mayor bloomberg instituted. but what changes would you make to the new york city schools if you took the job. >> first of all, i have a great job, and i love my job and representing teachers. i love working with kids in this capacity. so i'm not going to indulge a baseless ruler that i hope soon to be mayer-elect deblazio has also refused to indulge. i'm doing my job, and that
article was intended to try to -- it's from the new york post, it was intended to try to create more voters for joe louis, and let me put that aside. we're agnostic about charter schools. we represent them. and we started several charter schools in new york city, one of which this year actually had 100% graduation rate. so this is not about competition between charters and traditional public schools. this is about being able to say that every single child should be able to dream his or her dream and achieve them. and that actually means giving kids the human resources, the engaged curriculum, the wrap around services that they need to actually meet that opportunity. and if cities like cincinnati can do it, frankly, cities like new york, same constitution as
fell fill and pennsylvania, but created the investment in schools. why is philly not doing that? >> and on that, randi, we're going to bid you adu, and we know you have another commitment this evening. talking about charter schools, they do get blamed for diverting funds from public schools. are they being scapegoated? more after the break. progra
if they thought that charter schools were being used as scapegoats for the problems that public schools are facing. >> a lot of problems. charter schools average $7,000 from public schools. , damien says: kate says: >>. >> danielle, i want to get you into the conversation, and are charting schools being made scapegoats for a beggar problem? >> charter schools have certainly become the center of the debate in the city. but academically, they're a mixed bag as in many pleases.
you have excellent charters and you have mediocre charters, and you have some really poor performing charters. so academically, they're a wash as a whole. but fiscally, it's indisputable that they're exacerbating the district's problems. the figure of $6,000 per student does not come randomly, but it's an estimate from the school zest of philadelphia. you have a situation where you have a lot of increasingly powerful groups that openly want to put as much of the philadelphia school system as possible under private management, including by some wealthy libertarian hedge fund mangers, who openly want a privatized one rather than a public one. and as they move over, the school system becomes relatively
worse. >> but daniel, what's wrong with this? these are parents choosing freely where they want their kids to go to school, and charter schools are up exponentially, the highest waiting list that they have seen, and isn't that where the money should be funneled, what's wrong with that. >> i think that the issue is not that anyone accurately thinks that charter schools should not exist. it's more about regulating their growth in such a way that it doesn't make philadelphia's school's fiscal situation worse and worse and worse. there has been a major problem with charter school overseat in terms of corruption. nearly 2 dozen charter schools in the pell fil philadelphia are
been under investigation for corruption. it's the same in public education, but any time you pump tens of millions of dollars into the private sector without any oversight, there's almost no oversight on the city, school district or state level. >> well, michael says. , and shiron, if you had the choice between a public school or private school, which would you choose? >> i would say public schools. i would never go to a charter school, and they make them seem so much better, but i was there, and i would not go to a charter school. >> can i answer that? i have wonderfully talented friends who work at a charter
school, and i think that the issue is that they're not all created equal, just like the public schools. and certain neighborhoods have charter schools that seem like a safer option because perhaps they're able to accept fewer students. so students might be sent this under the guys that they're getting a safer education, and it's not necessarily true. and i'm going to go ahead with what everybody else is saying. and they're not higher performing either. they're met with the same issues that the public schools are dealing with today. the deal is, the public schools, and the charter schools, we all have a diverse body of students in the city. the range and ability and home life. so i just think that the charter schools, yes, it does take money away from the system. and i think they should be held accountable. if we're going to have charter schools, let's let them be managed and make sure that financially, they're doing the right thing.
school system isn't likely to get more money from the state and not likely to get more from the unions, so what's the way out? where's the money going to come are? >> well, i think the only way out, unfortunately, because it's difficult right now, is to increase the state funding and the fair funding that was developed under governor rendell. it's clear under the state constitution that public education is a state responsibility. and given the heat that governor corbett is taking over this, who is widely considered the most vulnerable sitting republican governor before his re-election campaign, i think its clear that there's a growing demand that the state do something about this. and philly has been put in one of the worst positions. first of all, there are a number of other poor school districts
in the state. and others have been forced to high property tacks enormously to make up for the shortfalls in state funding. >> hey, warren, the outlook is pretty dismal. is there a scenario in my opinion, where things get worse? >> oh, absolutely. if we continue on this pact patd we continue to layoff teachers every year, and we expect them to do the same with less, fewer resources, in terms of humans, and the responsibility to support the students, i really think it's going to get worse. you have circumstances where there are schools that need school police officers that don't have them, schools that need things that don't have them, but maybe had them for the past 20 years. i don't see how we can expect schools to perform well when we give them less, and unfortunately, i think that it
could mean awful things for the students and the city. i love the city. and i made it my home after going to college, and i would like to stay and raise children here, but unfortunately, if it continues to go this way, i'm a teacher, and i can't afford to send my kids to a private school. it's something to consider, especially for a lot of people in my predicament. >> that's going to wrap it up for us tonight. and i want to thank all of my guests on the program. thank you for all of your insights, and thank you for our online community for a terrific and lively discussion. until next time, we'll see you at aljazeera.com.
>> good evening, everyone, welcome to al jazeera america. i'm john seigethaler in new york. both virginia and new jersey are choosing a governor. one expects a winner and the other may be too close to call. pot, deception and minimum wage. in other parts of the country it's the issues not the candidates bringing voters to the poll. and changing the guards, governorrers in new york an. and brothers who don't live in iowa