From the Parents Across America website:
As the new school year begins, PAA has asked its chapters and affiliates to provide descriptions of the past year’s activities and what they’re planning for this year. We’ll be posting these descriptions a few at a time, starting with our Pennsylvania affiliates, Parents United for Public Education and Yinzercation.
Parents United for Public Education
Founded in 2006, Parents United for Public Education is a parent-led citywide organization focused on engaging parents with the budget process in order to ensure a baseline level of resources, services, and staffing provides every child in every school a stable, quality and nurturing school environment. We provide an independent parent voice to challenge perceptions of disengaged parents or “broken” families and school communities. Our parents have testified on budgets and tax policy, rallied at our state capitol for greater funding, led keynotes and served as conference panelists to build a parent voice in this dialogue.
We’ve focused on a rich and multicultural teaching and learning environment and called for safe school communities with a bias-free, restorative justice approach to climate as well as discipline. We’ve challenged privatization, successfully filed ethics complaints to improve transparency and democratic processes, and called for collaborative partnerships with teachers and parents. We’ve secured millions of dollars in funding and made public education a top electoral priority in our city and in our state. In a city segregated by class and race, we’re working to build multiracial coalitions of parents to improve school practices, fight for renewed funding, and build public support for our schools. We’ve shown that an independent, organized and engaged parent body can clarify budget priorities and rebuild a sense of collective responsibility for all our children. We invite all people concerned about Philadelphia’s future to join us in this effort.
Faced with an unprecedented budget crisis last year, Parents United for Public Education organized the filing of more than 800 formal complaints from over 90 different schools alleging that the lack of funding and resources violated the Pennsylvania state code. Six weeks after we began our campaign, the Governor released $45 million that restored hundreds of counselors, special education services, and other school-based staff. Our campaign also helped eliminate more than 100 split grades created as a result of the budget cuts and provided transportation to one community of parents dealing with a traumatic school merger. We worked with our media partners to do a video tour of Philadelphia public schools called Revival from the Roots. We filed and won an ethics complaint against a wealthy education reform group whose work violated lobbying reporting requirements.
Perhaps our most dramatic victory was a parent vote at two public schools targeted for charter conversion. Parents United worked with parents to support an open, transparent and informed process. By a margin of more than two to one, parents at both schools voted overwhelmingly to stay public and to demand an increased investment in their schools. The vote was a powerful statement on the importance of strong, stable and invested communities, and was a resounding rejection of the District’s portfolio approach toward education reform.
This year we will re-open our complaints filing which is now championed by one of Pennsylvania’s leading senators. A grant will help us focus on building charters of Parents United to ensure strong independent school communities. We are hosting a fall education conference with a local university, and looking forward to a gubernatorial election and city primaries where the care and funding of our public schools will be a top priority!
Yinzercation is a collective of parents, students, teachers, and community members in Southwest Pennsylvania allied for great public schools for all children. We are a part of the grassroots education justice movement committed to students, equity, and the preservation of public education as a civil right and a public good.
Last year we advocated for the restoration of state budget cuts and a fair funding formula; charter reform; state and local policies that preserve public education as a public good; the reduction of high-stakes-testing; equitable distribution of resources to all students and schools; improved school climate and disciplinary policies to address the school-to-prison pipeline; and the restoration of programs and staff our students deserve including library, world languages, art, music, physical education, social workers, guidance counselors, tutoring, and more.
Some of the highlights of the year include hosting Dr. Diane Ravitch for the national launch of her new book, Reign of Error, which attracted 1,000 people to hear her speak. We sponsored an Education Debate with Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial candidates that was broadcast across the state and had 500 people in the live audience. We hosted a showing of the new film, Standardized, and worked with a local middle school principal to write an op-ed on high-stakes testing that went viral.
A number of our pieces were picked up by the national media, including a piece on testing that hit the #2 spot at the Washington Post. We participated in the first national conference of the Network for Public Education; raised significant questions about Pittsburgh’s contract with Teach for America leading to its rescinding; took a bus load of parents to the state capitol to lobby for the state budget; and worked with our coalition partners to prevent school closures and promote a community schools model in the city.
This year we will do more of the same! We will also be focusing on the Governor’s race, as we have an opportunity to oust Gov. Corbett, who cut $1 billion from public schools in Pennsylvania when he took office in 2011.