As a citizen of Philadelphia, a parent of a public school student, and a committed Philadelphia principal, I feel compelled to respond to the May 1 letter written by House Speaker Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny) to School Reform Commission Chair Joyce S. Wilkerson.
In that letter, Turzai condescendingly questioned when Philadelphia will "embrace" what is best for us and our city's children. He naively suggested that the efforts of the SRC to responsibly manage charter schools is an assault on our own citizens.
Since he felt compelled to question how the people of Philadelphia govern our education system, I feel obliged to ask him a few questions:
When will state House legislators and especially Speaker Turzai realize that they are running a state that has the biggest disparity between wealthy and poor school districts in the nation?
When will they embrace the fact that they shouldn't be able to sleep at night knowing that they refuse to implement a fair funding formula with current state funds - money that would benefit the most vulnerable members of our society, our children?
When will they accept, that intentionally or not, they are supporting a system of institutional racism that allows predominantly minority students in Philadelphia to attend schools that do not compare in resources to the well-funded educational settings of the predominantly white Philadelphia suburbs and Marshall Township, which Turzai represents?
When will they acknowledge that the way they speak to people in Philadelphia is patronizing and insulting?
The citizens of Philadelphia need an SRC that has the authority to ensure that charter schools and public schools can operate in harmony. Charter growth needs to be managed responsibly to ensure that charter school students are not benefiting at the expense of traditional public school students.
Just like other public schools, charter schools need to have a strong system of accountability in place to ensure that taxpayer money is being used appropriately and that students are progressing academically.
For both charter and traditional public schools, the SRC needs the authority to intervene if safety or academics needs are not being met. Philadelphians should have the right to make these decisions without being threatened by state legislators who have a track record that shows they are not really too worried about what happens to the city's children.