by Christopher Paslay
Acknowledging three key problems—and providing solutions—can save the Philadelphia School District.
Thursday the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) released a report detailing “key findings and recommendations” on how to improve the workings of the Philadelphia School District (PSD). Titled “Transforming Philadelphia’s Public Schools,” the BCG was paid $4.4 million from private donors to produce it.
Here are three “commonsense” findings and recommendations not included in BCG’s multimillion dollar report:
COMMONSENSE FINDINGS: WHY THE PSD CONTINUES TO FAIL
1. The PSD remains unable to remove the violent and unruly 15 percent of students who cripple the entire school system and ruin the educations of the hardworking 85 percent.
Despite “School Safety Advocates” and “zero tolerance policies,” the fact remains that Philadelphia public schools are rife with violence and inappropriate student behavior (see the Inquirer’s Pulitzer Prize winning series Assault on Learning). Unfortunately, in today’s politically correct environment where a suffocating brand of educational socialism is promoted, the rights of the incorrigible few supersede the rights of the admirable many. In other words, it is near impossible to remove students from PSD schools (even “permanently expelled” students can file a right to return to their neighborhood schools after their “sentence” is served).
One reason is that under PA’s Compulsory Education law, school districts are responsible for providing alternative placements to students they remove from schools, and this can be quite expensive; as a result, troublemakers are forced to coexist with their peers and negatively impact classroom learning environments.
Another reason is that social justice lobby groups (such as the Education Law Center) and student activist groups (such as Youth United for Change, the Philadelphia Student Union, and the Campaign for Nonviolent Schools) play the race card and fight to keep violent students in schools instead of putting their resources behind the educations of the majority of their hardworking peers struggling to learn. (This is why charter schools are able to thrive in poor urban districts: instead of removing the bad to save the good, charters simply remove the good from the bad).
2. Too many PSD parents are “passengers” and not “drivers,” and feed off of the school system instead of fueling it.
In the PSD, 81 percent of families are economically disadvantaged. But this isn’t simply a financial issue; it is a cultural one as well. In the suburbs, parents and communities drive the school system—they are the core that makes the schools run. They parent their children and teach them that education is a priority. They understand that being a stakeholder in their school means making an investment (chaperoning trips, helping with homework, attending teacher conferences, instilling core values in their children, etc.).
Tragically, too many families in the PSD want to be a stakeholder without making any real investment; they suffer from an entitlement mentality, and believe that the district owes them despite the fact that they have only taken from the system and never carried their own weight and produced their fair share.
The cycle of poverty in the PSD is tragic, but undeniable: out-of-wedlock teenage births; domestic violence; crime, drug addictions; etc. This kind of environment is a drain on the PSD, not a force that fuels and propels the system.
3. Too many Philadelphia residents do not pay their property taxes.
Why is the PSD suffering from money problems? A major reason is because Philadelphia residents owe over $500 million (a half a billion dollars!) in property taxes. What has the City done to address this problem? Increase the property taxes of those residents who already pay their fair share!
1. Expedite the removal of the PSD’s violent and unruly 15 percent by building alternative schools that specialize in remediation and alternative curriculum instead of expanding charters.
In short, remove and remediate the maladjusted and don’t let civil rights or social justice groups bully policy makers into keeping troubled students in classrooms and continuing to rob our hardworking children of a quality education. Do this by building alternative schools instead of pumping more money into charters (or require charters to service the alternative population).
2. Run a grassroots campaign to strengthen the culture of PSD families and communities.
The PSD should fight to instill traditional values into its students and their families. Community leaders should preach that citizens are the captains of their own ship rather than fostering the idea that they are victims of an unjust system.
In addition, the PSD should: rail against teen pregnancy; promote the importance of two-parent families and call for men to father their children; promote personal responsibility and individual achievement; speak out against misogyny, violence and materialism; encourage students to cooperate with police and law enforcement officials; bring back the abstinence only message in sex education; reinforce speaking Standard American English; launch a campaign to cut down on TV watching, internet surfing and video game playing; promote exercise, good diet and proper nutrition; and make Bill Cosby’s book Come On People: On the Path from Victims to Victors part of PSD required reading for 9th graders.
3. Collect the $500 million owed the PSD by seizing and auctioning-off the property of all Philadelphia residents who do not pay their property taxes.
Tax delinquents, whether rich or poor, should not be allowed to deprive the PSD of money and rob our city’s hardworking children of their educations. If residents don’t pay their property tax, their homes or businesses should be confiscated by the city and sold at auction.
Implementing these straightforward commonsense solutions will go a long way in reclaiming Philadelphia’s public schools.