Coalition developing alternative to consultant’s plan for District

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

Education advocates worked this fall to ensure a community voice in the discussion about the future of Philadelphia schools: The Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools (PCAPS) sought input through two forums and a survey aimed at parents, educators, students, and other public education supporters.

PCAPS was launched in May in response to the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) report, commissioned by the District, which suggests dozens of school closings and a decentralized “portfolio management” model.

The coalition consists of 14 member organizations, including the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, ACTION United, Philadelphia Student Union, and Youth United for Change (YUC).

Shakur Miller, a junior at Mastbaum High School and a YUC member, said he joined PCAPS because “like most students, I see a lot of things wrong in the School District.”

“Students are losing the schools that they have gotten familiar with. They are being dropped in new environments and put into overcrowded classrooms where teachers don’t have enough time to cater to all of their needs,” he said.

The coalition’s goal is to gather opinions and use that information to develop a collaborative alternative to the reform strategies outlined in the BCG report. PCAPS is making door-to-door visits and phone calls to garner feedback and support.

Forum participants have called for an expansion of social services and outreach to the community; better ways to assess student, teacher, and school performance that are based on relevant, engaging learning experiences; investments in learning opportunities for teachers and administrators; and improved strategies for meeting students’ intellectual, social, emotional, and health needs.

PCAPS aims to present its plan to Superintendent William Hite in December. Hite has announced that he will present a reform plan to the School Reform Commission in January.

“We will not stand down until we get the justice that we need and the resources to keep our education going,” Miller said.