5.24.2010

How to Save Philadelphia Schools

So here's my advice for Superintendent Ackerman when it comes to saving Philadelphia schools: hire an art teacher for my school.

I'm totally serious.

No, this isn't a rant about how important the arts are inside schools. But it is a rant. It's a rant about saving Philadelphia schools.

We all know that funds are limited at the SDP. And we all know that there will have to be cuts and budget tweaks. We know this because we are constantly reminded about it. But as Ackerman pushes forward with her Imagine 2014 plan (you can download the plan here), I'm a bit worried about how those cuts and budget tweaks will affect our schools. And by our schools, I mean my school.

I'm not going to be altruistic here. I'm going to be selfish. I think that's part of my job as a parent: to care most about my child. That's not to say that I don't care about other children. I do. But I'm not so obnoxious as to purport to get up every morning worried about the success of every child in the Philadelphia School District. I don't. I get up every day and think about my children.

I made the decision to put my child (now children) in public school in the City because I believe in the idea of neighborhood schools. I want my children to go to school where they live. I chose to live here for a reason - well, for a million reasons. And I want my children to love the City as much as I do. I don't want them to live in a car. I don't want them to have to give up play dates, clubs and sports in order to catch a bus back home. I don't want them to think that the keys to their success can only be found in walled up buildings "somewhere else."

I believe that their success can start here, in the City, in the neighborhood where they live. And I, along with similarly minded parents, have fought to make this happen.

That's why I am listening to some of what's happening at the SDP and holding my breath a little. While there is a lot of shared optimism about the future, there are also a number of shared concerns. Specifically, my fellow parents and I are worried about this particular goal, which is one of the keys of Ackerman's platform:

Ensuring the equitable allocation of all District resources;


It's not the goal itself that worries me - the notion of equitable allocation is a great one. Rather, it's the interpretation of the word "equitable" that gives me pause.

Don't get me wrong. I firmly believe that all children should have access to good schools. But equitable isn't the same as equal. Equitable means fair. Those are very different things.

In other words, don't tell me that we can't have an art teacher at my school because you're putting security cameras in other schools. Don't take away our libraries so that other schools can have metal detectors. Don't spend so many resources trying to prevent other schools from becoming worse that you prevents ours from getting better. We would do well to heed the words of Michelangelo, who said, "The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark."

There, I've said it. Let the judging begin.

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