Pennsylvania is Failing in Philly Public Schools… so, close schools ?


The Pennsylvania Senate’s effort to amend the State School Code (H.B. 530), is part of the wrangling in backrooms  over our State Budget.  The illogical part of the backroom.


Senate amendments to H.B. 530 require the State to directly takeover or close five individual schools every year.  This Senate incursion into education is a textbook example of aggression and obstruction with no advance intelligence, no input from “frontline ground troops”. So politicians push more and more State bureaucracy into sectors where the State is ignorant and in fact, failing.



It is impossible to continue silently enduring simplistic views of learning and teaching practice (by non-practitioners) and simplistic “solution pills” to “fix” or increase learning, which instead continue generating more and more collateral damage:  academic damage, systemic damage, financial damage, social damage, personal damage, and more.


Newsflash:  There is no simplistic, quick fix, or someone would have done it long ago.  In fact, the very same State of Pennsylvania took over the entire School District of Philadelphia 15 years ago already!  The State record of academic decline, and their consistent record of precise underfunding of Philadelphia in particular, is a prime cause of our condition.  A contrived disaster.


Ask yourself:   After 15 years of State management, is the School District of Philadelphia better off today, or worse off ?…




Flickr amboo who
Flickr amboo who


Now, failing politicians want to go even further?  The Senate proposes required micro-management (or closure) from the State level,  of 5 “worst” schools in Philadelphia.  All for the sake of negotiating a state budget ?


I ask, “What secret solution does the State have?


There are no capital programs, no curriculum programs, no books, no supplies, no teacher incentives or punishments, no longer hours, no charter business plans, and no “common core” or “standardized” testing program nor even school closings that start at the center of the learning process.  Instead they all focus on the periphery.


The learners, children, are the center.  Children are people.  It takes highly trained, highly competent people to work with people —  work with 30 people, every day, in one room, all day, day-after-day while facilitating ever faster learning.


Learning is a personal process.  A complex process.  The learning process and its timing for children varies infinitely, as does human experience.  Facilitating their learning, or “teaching”, is an art, a “practice” of professionals.


Capturing the attention and the imagination of the incredible range of learners and learning styles and learning paces which can be found in a typical Public School classroom is an expert accomplishment.   Whether we choose to view the truth, or adopt the pol’s simplistic view of children and teachers (people) as ‘widgets’ will determine success and failure.


As one single example of one key complexity (there are many others), children in our Public School classrooms have massive rates of trauma, described by our own U.S. Department of Justice report as an “epidemic”, by past Surgeon Generals as “national crisis”… years ago.   The CDC says it is critical to understand.



One part to understand is that childhood trauma affects every classroom.  It is not poverty.  It is not an ‘urban issue’.  It is not a ‘color issue’. The CDC’s own prodigious study was fielded in beautiful, suburban San Diego.


Next, neuroscience tells us it is physiologically impossible to learn for those children in ‘fight or flight’ mode, defending against complex trauma.


Pixabay: Public Domain
Pixabay: Public Domain



Then, research studies illuminate trauma rates as high as English Language Learner (ELL) percentages and as high as those students with Individual Education Plans (IEP) — in some zip codes higher than the combination.


Students with IEPs and ELLs are funded and accommodated. Childhood trauma is not.


Trauma-impacted children’s civil right of equal access to an equal quality, public education is being violated by those from afar, without knowledge, without experience.  Just one example of complexity.


Pixabay Public Domain
Pixabay Public Domain


The children are coming to our classrooms in a few hours.

We need training and resources and strategies and support to teach all children all the time.  Putting the State more directly in charge has not — and will not — solve anything.


Ask non-practitioner politicians to keep simplistic, academic “fixes” to themselves. They are inappropriate efforts.

Political focus would be correctly served by protecting civil rights of children now being denied equal access.


We are Public Education.   Stop shooting at us.   Join with us.

Support Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf in his courageous stand to defend public education.

In spite of the facts that politicians haven’t proposed an acceptable budget, and the budget is now 6 months overdue, Governor Wolf is standing against them.

In spite of daily partisan attacks for over six long months, day by day, Tom Wolf has refused to give in to those politicians trying to further strangle public education and trying to take away more local control.

Now, for the second time in the latest 3 months, Governor Wolf rejected a still-deficient state budget .  The latest budget proposal, according to Wolf’s office, doesn’t even “add up”,  it doesn’t balance, and meanwhile  “…… underfunds education and uses gimmicks that will actually lead to a $95 million cut in funding for our schools.”


It’s not just about the money.

Governor Wolf’s political foes are also trying to link requirements for state micromanagement, or annual closures of the 5 ‘worst’ schools in Philadelphia. An arrogant, punitive attack on our one district. Politicians making decisions and laws about academics (and school closings) instead of the experts: educators ?


Governor Tom Wolf is an amazing breath of fresh air in a national ocean of “contrived failure” claims about Public Education.

We all need to hold him up as an exemplary, thoughtful leader and as hope for Public Education..


Believers in Public Education must stand together:  

Whatever school district you are in, whatever state, please take a moment to send Governor Tom Wolf a short note(s) of your support for his defense of public education:

Twitter : @GovernorTomWolf

Facebook :

Email form:

America's Promise Alliance
America’s Promise Alliance



OP ED,    as edited and published at NewsWorks WHYY,