Tag Archives: Philadelphia School District

Uncle Tony’s Charter School: Part 5

Illustration by Sean Wang

a satire by Christopher Paslay

When beloved high school principal Dominic Rossetti is forced to open a charter school so his uncle Tony, an organized crime boss, can embezzle the money to fund a strip club, Dom is thrown into a humorous yet tragic situation: he is compelled to run his uncle’s bogus charter school while trying to educate Philadelphia’s children.

Part 5 of 25

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE AUDIO OF PART 5: 


While all this was going on at the school, while Dom was working on the accreditation and changing the lives of all the colored kids and helping their moms and dads get involved in their educations and safety, a whole buncha stuff was happening in Dom’s personal life.  I told you’s guys a little about the award dinners and his addiction meetings, but I never told about Chastity O’Connell, the broad that the Kid was seeing for nine months and was head over heels for.  In my personal opinion, Chastity O’Connell was the whole reason why the Kid got all mixed up wit my brother Tony to begin wit, even though the Kid was man enough in the end to take responsibility for the whole thing hisself.

The Kid met Chastity in the beginning of 2011 at an education conference at the Convention Center in downtown Philly.  They was both there to hear some University of Penn professor give a talk about the, ah, inequalities of funding in poor urban school districts.  Like I said before, the Kid was big on making sure the coloreds got a fair shot at having a good education and life and such, and this O’Connell chick was the same way.  Helping the poor coloreds and Puerto Ricans was kinda what brought the two a them together and helped them bond I guess you could say.

According to what Dom said at our meetings, this broad was all wet for him, at least at first.  The Kid was I think 39 years old then, stocky, wit a full head a dark hair; O’Connell was a 31-year-old high school French teacher.  Dom said this O’Connell broad was hot for him cause he was a bit older and successful and whatnot, and just loved that he worked at a school that was fulla coloreds.  The Kid was all excited about this, all excited; he never had a real, long-term relationship in his whole life and always wanted one.  So when this broad went after him, flirted wit him and got his number and started calling his cellphone every friggin night, the Kid was in heaven.  She was a genuine piece of ass, so you couldn’t really blame the Kid.  She was an attractive brunette wit one a those short bob haircuts, a tattoo of a butterfly on her wrist and an eyebrow ring.  She was super friendly and when you was around her you thought she wanted to screw you, but she didn’t, that was just her personality.

She was screwing the Kid, though, no doubt about it.  At meetings he, ah . . . what’s the word . . . alluded to it, but never gave details.  He was in love wit her and said it wasn’t right for him to go talking about the sex he had wit Chastity—he respected her too much—but it was easy for everybody in our famb’ly and all the guys at the meetings to see she was pumping his brains out.  We all thought, Good for the Kid.  Let him get some action and clean out his pipes.  I vividly remember how happy he was, how he had this rosy glow, an even brighter glow than the one he had when he told the success stories about his students, about how the coloreds could write these crazy good essays and how the slow kids was planting zucchinis in the back garden.  And why shouldn’t the Kid have been happy?  He was turning around Eisenhower and kicking butt as their principal, improving state test scores and lowering violence and coming down the home stretch wit the accreditation; Eisenhower only had one last audit to pass from the Eastern Association of Academics and Schools.  He was also making a good salary, something like $125,000 a year, had rebuilt his credit and was living in a $1,800 a month loft condo in Northern Liberties—complete wit hardwood floors and exposed brick and a big old skylight.  He’d decked his place out wit leather couches, oriental throw rugs, and these beautiful oil paintings he bought from local artists who had studios in the neighborhood.  On top a that he dressed real sharp, too, in nice suits and sharp leather shoes from Clarks and Bostonian; I guess me and Tony kinda wore off on him a little bit.

His most prized possession, though, was his 2005 Porsche 911 Turbo S., which according to his journal, he bought used in 2007 for $78,000.  He parked it across the street from his condo in his reserved parking spot that cost him $150 a month.  Now, since I’m talking about the Kid’s Porsche . . . and Chastity O’Connell, I didn’t forget about her . . . I’m gonna talk about the weekend in October of 2011 when he got the title in the mail from Chase Bank that said he was the proud owner a the Porsche.  That weekend was the highest point of his life at the time, and, as he’d tell the guys later on at meetings, it was also the lowest.

It was the high point for lots a reasons, but mainly cause the Kid was madly in love wit Chastity and was preparing to propose to her; he’d even went out and spent a wad a cash on a pear-shaped diamond engagement ring set in 18 karat white gold.  He was gonna propose to her on the beach at sunset on the night of his best friend Donny’s wedding.  There was one sticking point, though—the wedding was in Atlantic City; the Kid had a gambling problem so A.C. prob’ly wasn’t the best place for him to go.  Course, it was his best friend getting married, and the Kid was the best man, so there was no way he was gonna miss it.  Plus, the Kid hadn’t gambled in almost 14 years, and had a plan in place before he went.  He talked about this plan—to stay outta the casinos, point blank— at our meetings the whole week before, ran it by Gordon W., his sponsor, too.  Gordon said he didn’t think A.C. would be a problem for the Kid, so long as he knew he could call Gordon on his cellphone at any time, day or night, if he even had the slightest urge to go within ten feet of a casino or place a bet.

So on Friday at noon . . . the Kid took a half day from school . . . he drove his candy apple red Porsche 911 Turbo S. to Atlantic City, radar detector beeping on the dash, travel bag and newly pressed navy twill suit in the backseat, diamond ring in his pocket cause he didn’t trust hisself putting it in his bag.  He beat rush hour and made great time, and checked into his room at the Trump Taj Mahal three hours before Donny’s bachelor party was supposed to begin.  That was the schedule, see: the bachelor party Friday night wit just the guys, and the wedding Saturday afternoon wit the wives coming up first thing that morning to put on their faces and dresses and get ready.  Chastity was coming extra early Saturday so her and the Kid could have a romantic breakfast at Plate, go back to the room to have a little morning delight, shower, toss off their towels and hit the bedroom for round two, shower again . . . this time separately . . . get dressed for real this time, and go to the wedding; that’s at least what the Kid wrote was supposed to happen in his journal.

At the wedding, cause he was the best man, the Kid would have to walk down the aisle wit Donny’s sister, and he would also have to take the ring from the ring bearer and give it to Donny—his best friend since they met playing C.Y.O. football in the fifth grade.  The part that made the Kid nervous, besides thinking about proposing to Chastity, was giving the toast at the reception.  He’d been working on it for weeks and even asked some of the English teachers at Eisenhower to help him wit the wording.  The problem the Kid was having was that every time he sat down to write the toast he got thinking about Chastity and how he was gonna propose to her during Donny’s reception, how he was gonna ask her to come outside for a minute to watch the sunset—not from the boardwalk out back a the Taj but right on the beach.  The Kid had it all worked out, see.  Him and Chastity would cut outta the reception for a quick second, take off their shoes and socks and walk barefoot across the beach right up to the water, the girl holding her dress up so it wouldn’t get wet, the Kid taking the ring outta his pocket, kneeling down on one knee in the sand and popping the question.  When they went back inside, giggling and teary-eyed, the Kid would make a second toast, this time announcing that him and the girl just got engaged.

That’s what the Kid would think about when he tried to write the toast.  Luckily, though, one a his best English teachers helped him get it written, and the Kid was ready to let it rip right on cue.

The Kid didn’t get in no trouble at the bachelor party.  It was a relatively calm night, cause Donny and the Kid and most a their friends was all in their late 30’s wit real jobs and wives and famb’lies of their own, which meant they was outta shape when it came to partying and drinking and such.  There was about a dozen guys who made it down to A.C. that night, and they all met up at this boardwalk pub the Kid had picked out where they had some beers and pizza.  Soon the party moved back to the Kid’s hotel room, cause he was the best man, and there they ate chicken wings and drank bottles a Coors Light and watched the baseball playoffs on TV.  At around 11:00 p.m., a colored stripper showed up to the room wit some guy wearing a Dallas Cowboys jersey wit the name “Brotha Man” on the back and a gun on his hip . . . he was this broad’s pimp, I guess . . . and she did her thing for an hour and left.  At this point all the guys went downstairs to gamble and play the slots except for the Kid, who started cleaning his hotel room up to get it ready for Chastity who was gonna be there at 8:00 the next morning.  After this the Kid called Gordon W. just to check in wit him and tell how it was going.  The conversation went something like this, according to the Kid’s journal:

“So you made it,” Gordon says to Dom.

“I made it,” the Kid says.  He was turning over the ring in his pocket as he talked.

“Good for you,” Gordon says.  “See, you hadda plan, and you stuck to it.  Congratulations.”

“Thanks.”  The Kid pulled the ring outta his pocket, started staring at it.  “I’m gonna propose to Chastity tomorrow,” he says all of a sudden.  Now, the Kid said he wasn’t planning on telling nobody until Saturday night after the deed was done, but he was too excited and hadda share the news.  “I’m gonna do it tomorrow during the reception.  I gotta find a way to get Chastity to leave the reception and take a walk on the beach at sunset.  Man . . . I’m really nervous.  You think I can pull it off?”

“Woa, you’re getting married!  Congratulations, brother!”

“Thanks,” the Kid says, and started feeling nervous like he just jinxed everything.  “Thanks, Gordon, thanks for everything.  For all your help over the years.”

“Hey, no problem.”

“Look, it’s getting late . . . I got a big day tomorrow . . .”

“Yes you do,” Gordon says.

And the Kid says, “Yeah, well, I’m gonna hang now, but thanks.  Tell Jill I said hi, okay?”

“Absolutely.  Congrats again, Dom.  Call me tomorrow with the good news when it’s official.”

“Will do,” the Kid says.

Then he hung up.  Now, I don’t know exactly what he did then, but I bet he prob’ly played wit the ring some more before putting it back in its case, went to the bathroom to brush his teeth, and went to bed.  He didn’t write about any a that in his journal, or talk about it at meetings; the entry ended there.

The next day, though, he wrote a journal entry that went on for at least a dozen pages, on and on in this handwriting that was, ah, barely legible.  Now, I’m gonna talk about that part, and try to keep as much a the details as possible—at least what I can remember.  So the Kid couldn’t sleep that night, not a friggin wink.  He kept tossing and turning and getting up to get a drink of water and walk around the room and look outta the window at the ocean and the beach where he was gonna ask Chastity O’Connell to marry him.  And when his alarm went off at 7:00 in the morning, his eyes was all red and stingy from not sleeping, but he was excited and didn’t care; it was nothing some coffee and eye drops couldn’t fix.

So he got up and showered and got dressed and took the ring out and put it in his jeans pocket and practiced in his room popping the question, practiced getting down on one knee and all that.  Time was moving slow for the Kid, cause he was so excited.  He said the next hour felt like a day, and he kept checking his watch, wondering when Chastity was gonna get there.  At 8:15 she still wasn’t there, and he figured she’d hit some traffic.  At 8:30 he decided to give her a quick call but she didn’t answer her cellphone.  At 9:00 he was starting to get worried and called her again, but she still didn’t answer so he left a message: Hey babe.  Dom here.  Call me when you get this.  Love you.  Bye.  At 10:00 he was frantic and starting to wig out, cause he was sure something bad had happened to her—maybe a car accident or a heart attack or a whatdoyacallit . . . brain embolism . . . and just when he was seriously considering calling Chastity’s mother to see if she knew anything, the Kid’s cellphone rang.

It was Chastity’s name on the caller I.D.

“Hello,” the Kid says.  “Chastity?”

There was this long silence—the Kid was clear about this in his journal—and finally Chastity says, “Hey, Dom.”

“Oh my God,” the Kid says, “I was starting to get worried.  Where are you?”

“Still at home,” Chastity says.  “I didn’t leave yet.”

“You didn’t leave yet?  What?  Why not?”

And Chastity says, “Cause.  I’m not gonna make it to see you today.”

And the Kid says, all alarmed and disappointed, “What?  Why not?  What’s the matter, babe?”

“Dom,” she says, “we gotta talk.”

And then she just told him straight out, just told the Kid everything, straight out.  The Kid didn’t hear what she was saying at first cause his mind lost the ability to concentrate and everything was a blur.  He didn’t really hear what she was saying at all until the girl said the words I’m married—that’s when the Kid started listening to what she was saying.

“You’re married?’ the Kid says, and the girl says yeah, she is, she’s been married for three years . . . her husband almost found out about the two a them and she got all freaked out and saw the light and knew it was time to end it . . . end the affair they was having.  The girl said she was sorry, so sorry, but there was nothing she could do about it; she still loved her husband and that was it.  Dom said he couldn’t remember much else about the call except that it felt like he was outside his body listening to someone else talking, that the whole thing didn’t seem real.  The only thing he said he knew was that it was clear that Chastity wasn’t lying, that she was really married and that it was over between the two a them.  At that point Dom said his hotel room got all swimmy, that everything lost color and shifted to black-and-white and whatnot, and that he didn’t feel real anymore.

He said he just sat down on the bed for a long time, just sat and stared out in space.  He said his cellphone rang and he didn’t answer it.  He said there was a block a time he couldn’t remember, that he mighta been laying under the covers on his bed for a bit, and that the phone kept ringing—his cellphone and his room phone.  Then there was a knock on his hotel room door, pounding on the door, and he got up to answer it.

It was Donny, and he says, “Yo, bro, where you been, man?  Where’s Chastity?”

The Kid said he just made something up, said Chastity got sick or something.

“That sucks,” Donny says, “you okay?”

The Kid just nodded.

“Well it’s time to get ready,” Donny says.  “Let’s get dressed and hit the hotel bar for some pregame drinks.”

The Kid said he got dressed in a fog like a robot, put on his suit—one leg then the other, one arm then the other—and tried to act normal.  He said he told hisself he hadda act normal so he didn’t frig up Donny’s wedding, and so Dom just put on this big smile and tried not to say much; when people talked to him, he just nodded and smiled.  He nodded and smiled and followed Donny down to the hotel bar, let Donny get him a shot and a beer; it was then the Kid started to feel better.  The alcohol brought some a the color back to things, though the lobby was still a fog, the Kid said.  Other guys was there now, other guys wit their wives.  The Kid kept smiling and acting like things was normal, giving hugs and shaking hands.  Some people asked where Chastity was, and the Kid said she got this real bad stomach bug and couldn’t make it.  Sorry to hear that, they said.

Somehow, the Kid made it through the wedding.  He just kept smiling and nodding and drinking a buncha vodka tonics.  The Kid wasn’t a big drinker, so he was nice and comfortably, um, numb, like that song by that band, Pink something.  The Kid said watching Donny saying his vows made him feel better, but it also made him feel sad and alone.  The Kid said that the whole room was fulla people, people that he’d known for years, but for some reason he felt a million miles away, cut off from everybody—all a his buddies—who was proud and happy wit their beautiful wives.

The reception followed the wedding in a big old banquet room in the Taj.  The Kid was at the main wedding party table, so no one really noticed that Chastity wasn’t there.  The Kid kept ordering drinks and smiling and nodding at everybody.  Time was a blur and all of a sudden it was time for Dom to give the toast—which he actually nailed, brought down the house—cause he was an experienced principal who talked in front a people for a living; he said he had no nerves cause he was so lubed-up from the drinks.  Everybody stood and clapped, all impressed over his fine speech about how Donny and his new wife Stephanie was soul mates and would spend all these happy years together . . . even Donny’s grandma was in tears, the Kid said . . . and right then the Kid saw his chance to jet and took it, just bolted; he smiled and nodded his way the frig outta the reception, down the hall to the nearest exit doors which led him outside to the boardwalk.  The sun was setting, right over the Atlantic Ocean, and this was too much for the Kid.  He burst out crying, hard, and walked out on the beach barefoot, holding his shoes in his hand.  He stayed there a while, saying he felt completely alone in the universe even though there was moms and dads and little kids flying kites at the edge a the ocean.

The cry cleared his head, the Kid said.  He got some a his strength back.  He left the beach and put on his shoes and was planning on going up to his room and getting his stuff and checking out right then, but when he put his hand in his pocket to get his key card, he felt the box, the friggin goddamned ring box.  Now, this is where the Kid says in his journal that his sad feelings turned to angry feelings—boom, just like that.  He said just like that he was mad, mad as you wouldn’t believe.  Did that bitch actually say she was married? the Kid asked hisself.  She did.

Dom said he knew right there he hadda get rid a that friggin ring, was actually gonna run back on the beach and throw it the frig into the ocean, but he thought better of it.  He’d spent a wad a cash on it, and he wasn’t gonna lose all a that money.  So without further . . . what’s the word . . . debate, he just went down the boardwalk to the nearest pawn shop and hocked the freakin thing, hocked it for exactly $5,000—which was only half a what he paid for it.  Course, it didn’t matter; that was plenty a cash to play wit in the casino, where he’d known he’d end up going all along . . . at least since the phone call wit that lying bitch Chastity.

In Dom went, it wasn’t hard.  Right into the Taj, right to the roulette wheel.  It was like second nature to him, like no time had passed.  He put $200 on black—that’s how he said he was feeling—and lost.  Put another $200 on black.  Lost again.  He was pissed now, super pissed.  He said he was gonna put $200 on black until he won, see, cause it all made sense now.  It hadda be black, cause that was Chastity, just a black spot, a black, heartless cunt; these is the Kid’s words in his journal, not mine.  He lost five more times until he finally won.  Course, it didn’t matter, cause he won, see.  He was back.  He was down $1,200, but he was back.  It felt good, the Kid said.  It was good to be back.  That whole gray fog lifted and everything came into sharp focus wit lots a color.  The casino, the Kid said, was beautiful, the colors and sounds of the slots, the clank of coins, the click and snap of the cards being dealt.

He lost more money on roulette—won some but lost more—and then went over to play blackjack, which was where he was gonna get his groove on.  The Kid went right to the $100 table, no friggin screwing around.  He got hot and won back a buncha his cash and some people came over and started watching, and he was getting comped a buncha drinks.  The Kid said he was focused now, in his . . . his zone.  He kept playing and lost track a time.  He glanced down at the table and somehow, somehow, he was on his last $100 chip; this didn’t make any sense cause he was sure we was actually winning but no, no, no, that was it, the Kid was outta cash.

Course, the Kid thought he was just rusty.  He could win it back, he could, see, it was possible.  He went over to the casino cashier and bought $1,500 in chips which was the limit on his Visa Gold card; he’d set this limit on his card years ago cause he knew he had a gambling problem.  He got fifteen $100 chips and went back to the blackjack game where he’d left off.  Things I guess went a little better this time, or so the Kid thought.  He played for a while, at least an hour, but somehow, somehow, the same thing happened: he was down to his last chip.  He lost it on the next hand and went over to the ATM and this time used his bank card and took out the maximum he could from his checking account, which was $300.  Recharged, he played the slots, and more blackjack at a $10 table, and more slots, until somehow, somehow, the $300 was gone.

The Kid was drunk now, he wrote in his journal.  A good numb drunk.  The high from the gambling was fading, though, and the Kid was, um, obsessed wit chasing it.  He left the casino floor and went to his car to get the emergency $20 from the glove compartment.  He had it all figured out, see.  He’d ride that twenty bucks, you betcha, for all it was worth.  He fumbled to get his car keys outta his pocket, finally found them and unlocked his car wit the press of a button.  The door to his shiny apple red Porsche popped open and he went to the glove box and opened that up.  His mail, the envelops and such that he’d grabbed from the letterbox on his way up to A.C. yesterday afternoon, fell on the floor.  The Kid said in his journal that he stared at it real hard cause he’d forgot what it was, but then he remembered.  His mail, dah.  How dumb a the Kid.  Junk mail . . . Men’s Wearhouse circulars and such garbage . . . and, oh yeah, the title to his Porsche, look at that.  He stared at the title for a moment, and made his decision, it wasn’t hard.  The next thing he knew he was driving his Porsche to the same pawn shop he’d brought the girl’s ring to, the Kid did.  He handed the title to the guy behind the counter and said something like, I forget his exact words, “How much can I get for this?”

The guy gave the Kid $35,000.  Now it was a pawn, not a sale, so the Kid had 30 days to repay—wit interest—the $35,000 to get his Porsche back.  No problem, the Kid figured, which is what he thought at the time and later wrote in his journal.  All he hadda do was win back the . . . what was it . . . $6,800 he’d blown on the roulette and blackjack tables and he was home free; he’d walk away even steven, no big deal.

Course, it was a big deal, a big goddamn deal.

_______

The Kid went back to the Taj wit the fat wad a cash in his pocket.  He got $10,000 in chips just to start.  No sense in changing all the money into chips, since he was gonna just break even and then head back to his room.  Now, to just speed through the story here, the Kid basically gambled for hours until he was down to his last $2,000.  He’d gotten comped tons a drinks and coupons to breakfast places and even a friggin free room—a suite at the top a the Taj, if you can believe that.  At something like 4:00 in the morning, the Kid was all polluted but still going strong, still putting stacks a them $100 chips down on the table.  But while this was going on, see, there was this broad kinda standing next to him, this younger broad wit long blond hair and silver platform heels and a long blue dress wit a slit on the side so you could see her legs when she walked. Her cleavage was all showing, Dom wrote, kinda right in his, ah, line a vision.

She was a hooker, a prostitute, the Kid understood.  He was drunk but she still caught his eye, he said, got him half hard and excited.  She smelled good, that’s what the Kid really remembered.  She’d been talking to the Kid and making comments about his bets, wincing when he’d lose a big hand and giving him a little friendly elbow when he won a hand.  Dom said he thought she might even be a comp from the Taj, too, no fooling around, the Kid really believed this.  Either way, though, the Kid knew he was gonna take her up to his free suite at the top a the Taj and lay her on the bed and bend her slutty feet back behind her ears and pound her mound for hours . . . pound her little blond twat from behind . . . give her a whole buncha kinky orders, tell her to use her tongue and mouth and everything.  After all, it was 4:00 in the morning and the Kid was stinking drunk and down almost $40,000.  That was the situation, the whole rotten situation.

So the Kid says something like, “You wanna go up to my penthouse suite?”

And the hooker says, “Did you blow all of your money, honey?  Or did you save some for having fun?”

“I saved some,” the Kid says.  “I got about two grand left.”

And the hooker says, “Okey-dokey,” and then the Kid grabbed his last chips and took the hooker by the arm and the two got in the elevator and went up to Dom’s free hotel room.  It doesn’t say in Dom’s journal if they fooled around on the elevator or if they even screwed at all.  Personally, I don’t think they did, cause Dom was really drunk and depressed and all that, so I doubt he was ready to do all the things he said he was thinking about doing.  The thing I do know, though—what he clearly wrote in his journal—is that when he went into the bathroom to piss, there was a loud thump on his door, and all of a sudden the cops was raiding his hotel room. They came in hollering and telling the Kid and the hooker to put their hands up on their heads and kneel down on the floor.

They handcuffed the Kid, and, what’s the word . . . escorted him down the hall onto the elevator, through the casino and into a squad car.  They shoved him, pushing his head down so they could fit him into the back seat a the cop car.  They took him to the police station and before tossing him into a holding cell, stripped off all his clothes, threw everything outta his pockets and dumped out the stuff inside his wallet, and even had him bend over for a body cavity search.  After that they booked him—took his fingerprints and mug shot.  The Kid wrote in his journal that he was so drunk and exhausted he didn’t even care, that he just wanted to lay down and go to sleep, which he did, right on the hard metal cot in the holding cell.

When he woke up, there was a cop telling him he could make a phone call if he wanted.

_______

That was at 10:00 in the morning, the phone call was.  Twelve hours later, by 10:00 that night, the Kid was home in his own bed sleeping like a friggin little cherub, his fingerprints and mug shot destroyed, his arrest record wiped clean.  In the reserved spot across the street from his condo was parked his candy apple red Porsche 911 Turbo S.  Course, this was compliments of me and my brother Tony.  See, when the Kid made his phone call he dialed the number of none other than his uncle Manny, which was the smartest thing he coulda done.  He called me early that Sunday morning all panicky and frantic saying he was in a real frigged up situation, that he was in some jail in A.C., that he gambled away his Porsche, and that life as he’d known it—his days as the principal a Eisenhower, for one—was over.  He told me all a this in one long rambling breath, like he didn’t have much time on the phone.

I hadda tell him to say it again cause I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

“You got locked up?” I says.  “You’re in friggin jail now?”

“Yeah,” he says.  “You gotta help me, uncle Manny.  I need a lawyer.  You know anybody I can talk to?”

“You’re in jail?  Right now?  In A.C.?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Fuck.  Okay, lemme think about this.”  It wasn’t hard to figured it out, though.  We had people, a whole mess a people, in A.C.  I’d just need to make a few phone calls, most likely starting wit my brother Tony, to see what I could do.  I asked the Kid where he was exactly, and he told me he was at the Public Safety Building in a holding cell, and that these scumbag cops strip searched him and took all the stuff outta his pockets and wallet and threw it all over the place.  He said they took his picture and finger printed him, too.  He had the worst hangover in his entire life, he said, and already puked on the floor.

“Okay,” I says to him.  “Just relax.  I’m gonna call your uncle Tony.  We got some people down there, and I think they can help.  But listen, kid.  You gotta do one thing for me, okay?  You listening?”

“Yeah,” the Kid says.  “I’m listening.”

“Good.  Now, when you hang up the phone wit me, you gotta tell those scumbag cops that you know Jerry D’Alessandro, understand?  I don’t care what these jag-knobs say their gonna do, just tell them you know Jerry.”

“Who’s Jerry D’Alessandro?”

“He’s a friend a your uncle Tony,” I says.  “He makes Pete the Gorilla look like a sissy pole-smoker.”

“What if they don’t know this guy Jerry?”

“You see . . . we’re off to a bad start here.  Do you want me to help you or not, kid?”

“I want you to help me.”

“Then shut the frig up and do what I says.  These douchebag cops will know Jerry, believe me.  Everybody down there friggin knows Jerry.  When a guy takes a baseball bat to a freakin judge’s head, people don’t forget it.  Tell the cops that you know Jerry and Joel Gelles.  City Councilman Joel Gelles.”

“Joel Gelles?”

“Yeah,” I says.  “Gelles owes Tony.  Big time.  So drop Gelles’ name and D’Alessandro’s name.  If these cops ask how you know them, just admit that Tony Genitaglia is your uncle.  They’ll open their friggin ears and start listening real quick.  They may even start treating you wit a little bit a respect.  You getting all this, kid?”

“Yeah.  I got it.”

“You gonna do what I says?”

“Yeah, I guess.”

“You guess?” I says.  “You guess?  Look, you can do what you want, kid.  But you need to make up your mind.  While you is wasting time trying to decide the clock is ticking, see.  You ever hear a something called ‘police notes’?  Well, right now some piss ant newspaper reporter is prob’ly sticking his friggin nose in your business as we speak.  Looking for some muck to rake up and stick on the front page.  Use your head, kid.  If we don’t do something now, forgetaboutit.  All those colored kids at that school a yours?  Gone.  See ya.  You won’t be their principal no more.  You won’t be a principal nowhere.  So you need to figure this out.  If you do what I tell you to do, you’ll prob’ly be fine.  You gotta slow these pricks down while I make a few phone calls, though.  Do we read each other, kid?”

The Kid said he was straight, had his shit together.

“I hope so.”

I hung up the phone wit the Kid and thought he was toast, God’s honest truth.  I didn’t think he had the balls to do what I told him.  I knew we could take care a most of it, but those newspaper maggots were prob’ly already putting his picture in the Atlantic City Register, and from there the story a the Kid getting caught wit a prostitute would work its way to the pages a the Philadelphia Post.  And that would be it for the Kid.

Course, the Kid did do what I told him to do, and that didn’t happen.  It almost happened, but it didn’t.  A prick police beat writer for the Register actually started a little squib about the Kid’s arrest, but it got squashed by none other than the A.C. police themselves.

So, the Kid does what he’s supposed to do.  He tells the cops that he knows Jerry D’Alessandro and Joel Gelles and to top it all off, that Tony was his uncle.  In his journal the Kid wrote that the younger cop, the one that had Dom bend over and spread open his asshole, tried to test him to see if it was true, and started shaking his head, saying, “Nice try, buddy.  Where’d you hear of those guys, the Internet?”

But the Kid stuck to it, saying, “Tony Genitaglia is my mother’s brother.  Her last name is Rossetti, like mine.  Look it up.  I’m sure you’ll be getting a call from Joel Gelles’s office soon.  When he calls, you can tell him how you’s sexually assaulted me and violated my rights.”

About an hour later, before the Kid was arraigned and before the two-paragraph newspaper story went to press, the phone in the police station starts ringing.  It was Joel Gelles hisself, my hand on a stack a Bibles.  The younger cop answers, and all the Kid heard from the holding cell was, “Yeah.  Uh-huh.  Yes, Mr. Gelles, he’s here.  Yes Mr. Gelles.  It must have been a mistake.  We’ll take care of it, A.S.A.P.”

The cops was hearing better then.  Suddenly, they got some manners, too.  They let the Kid outta the holding cell and cleaned him up a bit, wiped the puke off his shirt.  They started asking him if he was hungry or thirsty and gave him a can a soda and some Tylenol.  They got his personal belongings together—the stuff in his pockets and his wallet—and straightened it out and made it all neat and whatnot.  The Kid had $2,000 in casino chips and those magically reappeared outta thin air, poof!  They actually apologized to the Kid for the mistake and set him up in a back room wit a leather couch and a flat screen TV and told him to just relax and take it easy, that somebody from Joel Gelles’s office was gonna come and pick him up and take him home.  And somebody did—Joel Gelles’s personal driver, if you can believe that.  But this guy didn’t take the Kid all the way home, no; the guy drove to the pawn shop to get the Kid’s car outta hock.

“Here’s forty grand,” Gelles’s driver says.  “Keep the change.  And if anybody comes around asking about this candy apple red Porsche, you never saw it before, understand?”

“What Porsche?” the pawn shop owner says.

“Exactly.”

And so the Kid’s crazy weekend in A.C. disappeared into thin air.

Part 6

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Will Pensions Sink the Philadelphia School District?

by Christopher Paslay

Retirement costs in Philadelphia will increase fivefold in the next seven years, growing from $73 million in 2011 to $349 million by 2020. 

There’s a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza,


There’s a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, 


There’s a hole.

These lyrics, from a traditional children’s folk song that I first heard as a child on Sesame Street, played through my head this week as I thought about the crisis facing the Philadelphia School District.

We have a hole.  A giant hole.  Not just in terms of cash, but also in terms of resources, staff, and services.  Earlier this year, the District laid-off nearly 3,800 workers.  As reported by the Notebook in June:

The 3,783 figure includes 676 teachers, 307 secretaries, 283 counselors, 127 assistant principals, 1,202 noontime aides, and 769 supportive services assistants, in addition to smaller numbers of workers in other categories. . . . The School Reform Commission adopted a “doomsday” budget . . . that provides a principal and a core group of classroom teachers for each school and nothing else. It has already said it will lay off all counselors, librarians, art and music teachers, secretaries, and support personnel, including noontime aides, in the schools.

Although about a third of the staff was rehired at the end of August, the fact that the District could do so little with so much money is concerning.

Consider these facts: The Philadelphia School District’s budget for the 2008-09 school year was approximately $2.7 billion.  The current budget for the 2013-14 school year is approximately $2.7 billion, although the district may still fall short $100 million plus, depending on the outcome of the negotiations between the School Reform Commission and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.

The question here is how was the District able to run at full strength with $2.7 billion just four short years ago, and be in such dire straights now?

The answer may very well rest with retirement costs, which continue to go up at an alarming rate.  According to the Pennsylvania Independent:

Payments to retired teachers and public employees are a growing threat to government budgets everywhere, and it is no different in Philadelphia. A new report from the Thomas Fordham Institute, a conservative education nonprofit, estimates the district’s total retirement costs will balloon from $73 million in 2011 to $349 million by 2020.

On a per-pupil basis, that works out to $900 per pupil in the district for 2011, growing to $2,300 per pupil by 2020.

Robert Costrell, a professor of economics at the University of Arkansas and an author of the report, says that trend is unsustainable.

“We’ve only just begun to see how bad it is going to be,” Costrell said Thursday.

The report examines the pension costs of the Philadelphia School District. Costrell said the financial mess unfolding in Pennsylvania’s largest city is on par with what has been seen recently in Detroit and Chicago. . . .

Because pension costs for public school employees are split between the local and state level in Pennsylvania, the situation in Philadelphia is partially a symptom of the $30 billion unfunded liability in the state’s Public School Employees Retirement System, or PSERS.

Because of that split, the state now picks up about $450 of that $900-per-pupil price tag, but as the costs rise, it will hurt both the district’s and the state’s bottom line.

And when the district spends about $15,000 per pupil — but will soon have to spend $2,000 per pupil on payments to retired district workers — that means fewer dollars are available to cover the actual costs of education.

Lawmakers in Harrisburg must solve the crisis because the state runs the pension system. Little progress has been made toward that goal.

Changes to the pension system approved in 2010 affected only future hires, which does little to affect the pension obligations in the short-term, the report notes.

Since most of the cost growth in the next decade is due to deferred payments of benefits owed to current workers or those who are already retired, changing benefit structure for new employees has little effect, Costrell said.

This news is indeed troubling.  As education advocates continue to fight for more funding for city schools—at both the state and local levels—the looming crisis involving pension funding hangs above it all.  State funds allocated by Gov. Corbett already make-up 50 percent of the Philadelphia School District’s budget—about $1.3 billion annually—and as pension obligations increase, this may very well cut into money earmarked for education.

Something has got to give, and sacrifices will need to be made.  Educators undoubtedly want the best for their students.  At the same time, after contributing 7.5  - 10.3 percent of every check to PSERS (Public School Employees Retirement System), they don’t want to see their pension funds go up in smoke.

Which leads to the following question: Will pension reform take place before the District goes bust?

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Philly Schools Brought Financial Crisis on Themselves

by Christopher Paslay

State auditors have been warning the Philadelphia School District of accounting problems for decades. 

There was a very interesting and informative article published in today’s Inquirer by Eric Boehm of the Pennsylvania Independent:

State auditors warned of financial accountability problems at the Philadelphia School District in periodic audits since at least 1987, foreshadowing some of the issues that underpin the crisis in the district as it opens its doors to students Monday.

The district is running a $300 million deficit this year and was only able to ensure it would open its doors on time thanks to an emergency loan secured by the city of Philadelphia in August. The district is receiving more than $1.3 billion in state and federal aid this year.

But the district has had problems tracking students, accounting for state dollars and keeping accurate finances for much of the past two decades, according to audits conducted by the state auditor general’s office. The auditor general is required to audit all 500 school districts in Pennsylvania at least once every four years.

“The district was unable to provide us with the documentation necessary to verify that it correctly reported its membership and attendance data to the Department of Education,” wrote auditors in the most recent review of the Philadelphia School District, which took place in 2011. “A district’s failure to accurately maintain and report this data calls into question the legitimacy and appropriateness of the bulk of its state taxpayer funding.”

The auditors said they reported similar problems in each of the five previous audits of the Philadelphia School District. It was impossible to determine if the district received appropriate state subsidies for more than decade, they wrote. “These findings are particularly disturbing because in those ten years the district has received approximately $9.1 billion of state of state dollars,” they wrote.

Interestingly, these facts have been ignored by most of the Philadelphia education establishment.  Advocates continue to rally for more money from the state, but this only addresses the short-term symptoms and not the long-term problem.

Boehm’s article continues:

Repeated phone calls and emails to the school district and the state-run School Reform Commission, which was created to address some of the problems in the district, went unreturned over the past week.

But in 2011, in an official response to the state audit, district officials wrote that the district would pursue steps to address the problems identified in the report.

The district said it had new procedures in place to better track student attendance and state spending, beginning in the 2010-11 school year. Officials also tried to downplay the effect of student enrollment on state subsidies, claiming the inaccurate counts affected only 3 percent of state spending in the district.

In a second response, the auditors expressed skepticism that the district would get its fiscal house in order.

“It is imperative for us to emphasize that we have been citing the district since 1987 for inaccurate collection and reporting of child accounting data,” the auditors wrote. “The commonwealth’s taxpayers deserve to know that every dollar is accurately accounted for, and, to that end, no error rate is acceptable.”

Federal auditors encountered some of the same problems.

In 2010, the U.S. Department of Education’s Inspector General recommended that the Philadelphia School District be labeled a “high risk grantee” after a federal audit found the district did not maintain documentation for training and professional development expenditures.

State auditors said that finding highlighted the “pervasiveness of the district’s recordkeeping issues.”

But the district has continued to get more state funding, even while the financial situation at the district has spiraled downward in recent years.

The accountability problems at the school district were compounded by the state’s decision to cut education funding in the 2009-10 and 2010-11 state budgets, using federal stimulus funds to fill the gap. When the stimulus dollars expired in 2011, the state did not increasing funding to make up the difference.

In trying to deal with the funding mess, the school district laid off about 3,800 employees during the summer and closed 24 school buildings at the recommendation of the School Reform Commission, which cited the district’s declining student enrollment for the decision.

“By not taking action now, we would continue the deterioration of our public schools to the point where they become obsolete to the children that we have sworn to serve,” said Pedro Ramos, chairman of the School Reform Commission, in statement at the time.

Enrollment in the district totals about 190,000 this year, but overall enrollment is down 11 percent since 2008 and 29 percent since 2001.

This year, Philadelphia is slated to receive nearly $984 million in basic education subsidies.

That’s a significant increase in only the past few years. As recently as the 2008-09 budget year, the district received $932 million.

The district is counting on the $50 million loan from the city and another $45 million grant from the state to allow it to continue operating through the end of the year.

But the $50 million loan is tied up in a political struggle between the mayor and the city council, while the $45 million state grant also is on hold for now.

Negotiations, meanwhile, continue between the district and its main teachers union, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. State officials have said they will not provide additional financial assistance to the school district unless the teachers’ union agrees to about $133 million in concessions.

But things will only get worse, according to two reports that eye the future of the district.

A district report from August 2012 projects a cumulative deficit of $1.1 billion through 2017, and a study of the district’s pension obligations indicates the total cost of retiree payments will climb from $73 million this year to $349 million by 2020.

Tragically, these financial issues go well beyond something as simple as a “fair funding formula.”

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Are Philly Schools Headed the Way of Detroit?

detroit

by Christopher Paslay

It’s going to take more than a “fair state-funding formula” to save Philly schools.  

Tonight at 6:00 pm at the Licacouras Center, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers will learn important updates on the current contract negotiations with the Philadelphia School District and decide what steps to take next.  PFT President Jerry Jordan has already proposed having teachers pay more for their health benefits, in addition to taking a pay freeze for one year.  The School District, however, wants more.  The School Reform Commission is asking for teachers to take pay cuts up to 13% percent for five years, among other things.

The Obama administration provided $45 million in debt forgiveness to Pennsylvania, and both sides are counting on Governor Corbett, who is holding the money hostage as a way to get the PFT to agree to pay cuts, to eventually release the cash to the School District.

The PFT may agree to pay cuts, or they may not.  Corbett may give the $45 million to Philly schools, or he may not.  In the long run, none of this will keep the Philadelphia School District from collapsing under it’s own weight; tragically, it appears that the PSD is heading the way of Detroit.

Pulitzer Prize winning Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer writes:

If there’s an iron rule in economics, it is Stein’s Law (named after Herb, former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers): “If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.”

Detroit, for example, no longer can go on borrowing, spending, raising taxes and dangerously cutting such essential services as street lighting and police protection. So it stops. It goes bust.

Cause of death?  Corruption, both legal and illegal, plus a classic case of reactionary liberalism in which the governing Democrats — there’s been no Republican mayor in half a century — simply refused to adapt to the straitened economic circumstances that followed the post-World War II auto boom.

Corruption of the criminal sort was legendary. The former mayor currently serving time engaged in a breathtaking range of fraud, extortion and racketeering. And he didn’t act alone. The legal corruption was the cozy symbiosis of Democratic politicians and powerful unions, especially the public-sector unions that gave money to elect the politicians who negotiated their contracts — with wildly unsustainable health and pension benefits.

When our great industrial competitors were digging out from the rubble of World War II, Detroit’s automakers ruled the world. Their imagined sense of inherent superiority bred complacency. Management grew increasingly bureaucratic and inflexible. Unions felt entitled to the extraordinary wages, benefits and work rules they’d bargained for in the fat years. In time, they all found themselves being overtaken by more efficient, more adaptable, more hungry foreign producers.

The market ultimately forced the car companies into reform, restructuring, the occasional bankruptcy and eventual recovery. The city of Detroit, however, lacking market constraints, just kept overspending — $100 million annually since 2008. The city now has about $19 billion in obligations it has no chance of meeting. So much city revenue had to be diverted to creditors and pensioners there was practically nothing left to run the city. Forty percent of the streetlights don’t work, two-thirds of the parks are closed and emergency police response time averages nearly an hour — if it ever comes at all.

Sound familiar?  Here are some similarities between The Philadelphia School District and Detroit:

Corruption

Philadelphia has been governed by Democrats for half a century—there hasn’t been a Republican mayor in over 60 years.  Corruption of the criminal sort has also been legendary.  In 2007 Vince Fumo, a Democrat who represented a South Philadelphia district in the Pennsylvania Senate from 1978 to 2008, was the subject of a Federal grand jury that named Fumo in a 137 count indictment, including the misuse of $1 million of state funds and $1 million from his charity for personal and campaign use; he was found guilty in 2009 of all 137 counts (ironically, Fumo just got out last month and is now living in a West Philly halfway house).

This is a common theme in Philadelphia.  According to NBC 10:

You don’t have to look far to find other Philadelphia politicians who went to prison on corruption charges and came back for a second act.

In fact, there’s a whole vocabulary about it among city pols. They’ll say somebody “had a problem” and went away. Many of the city’s 69 Democratic ward leaders used to call the federal pen at Allenwood “the 70th Ward” – kind of the way celebrities talk about rehab. It could happen to anybody.

The late state Sen. Henry “Buddy” Cianfrani came back after his prison term and worked as a political consultant and powerbroker for many years. Former City Councilman Jimmy Tayoun, always the entrepreneur, started a political newspaper, the Philadelphia Public Record, which is still going and is read by city and state pols everywhere.

Former U.S. Rep. Michael “Ozzie” Myers, who went down in the Abscam scandal, is still influential in South Philly, where his brother Matthew is a ward leader.

As for current fraud, waste, and abuse: From 2008 to 2011, the Ackerman administration spent nearly $10 billion, with little to show for it other than a detailed audit of the PSD’s financial practices by the IRS (and this doesn’t include the usual antics from the usual suspects, such as Chaka Fattah jr., etc.).

Pensions

Although Philadelphia schoolteachers are not paid nearly as well as their suburban counterparts (we face harsher working conditions, have less resources, and spend thousands of dollars of our own money), funding teacher pensions has become a legitimate concern.  Unfortunately, the baby-boomers who were once contributing to the system are now taking from it, and this has called into question the sustainability of the entire system, prompting many of my generation to ask the question: will our pensions be around in 20 years when we retire?

Deteriorating Resources

It is true that Philadelphia public schools are looking eerily like the city of Detroit.  Instead of nonworking streetlights they are nonworking computers and heating units; instead of closed parks there are closed schools; and instead of long response times from police and fire fighters, there are long response times from counselors, school security, and nurses—because they are woefully lacking.

Tax, Borrow, Spend

Like Detroit, Philadelphia continues to borrow, spend, and raise taxes.

As reported in March of 2012 by phillymag.com:

Counting the previous increases in the parking tax, hotel tax, sales tax and property tax, Nutter is on course to raise taxes all five years he has been in office. . . . Nutter is on course for a tax-hiking legacy unmatched since Mayor Rizzo’s fiscal insanity drove the city to the brink of bankruptcy.

In a city that already had one of the highest overall tax burdens in the country, five years of additional tax hikes could take a generation to undo. The result is an even more uncompetitive city.

Last year alone, the city borrowed $300 million to run the schools, and still faces a $1.1 billion budget deficit over the next five years.

Solution?

Tragically, the Philadelphia establishment continues to turn a blind eye to this situation, and continues to blame Governor Corbett, who’s been in office less than three years, for the mess they find themselves in.  Sure, Corbett’s funding formula has put Philadelphia in a pinch financially (although he’s given Philly Schools nearly $1.3 billion in funds this year alone), but fixing this formula is only a small part of stabilizing the PSD as a whole.

What Philadelphia needs is a paradigm shift—a total change in attitude and culture.  At the core of this is the need for everyone—parents, students, teachers, administrators, etc.—to go from passengers to drivers.  We need to stop being victims and start being captains of our own ships.

How do we do this?  Stop being sheep.  Stop groupthink and continuing to vote for the status quo.  Embrace individual achievement over stagnating collectivism.  Parent your children (that means you, fathers).  Pay your property taxes.  Get involved in your children’s educations.  Hold one another accountable.  Meet deadlines.  Speak out against corruption (yes, blow the whistle and snitch!)  Show up for work, on time.  Enforce current policy—gun laws, student discipline, truancy, etc.—before enacting new, unenforceable (dog and pony show) regulations.  Give no more than a second chance to anyone.

Nothing is free.  There is no perpetual motion machine.  Debts and deficits, at the local as well as the federal level, are real and mean something.  The fantasy that there exists some unlimited amount of money out there in limbo that some rich, (perhaps racist), miserly politician or one-percenter is hoarding (and that we need to rally or march to extract) is just that—a fantasy.  As Philadelphians we need to work together and make do for ourselves.  We need to sacrifice, and make do.

A new state-funding formula is just the first step in saving city schools.  If we don’t change our culture, the Philadelphia School District will end up just like the Motor City.

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The Obama Way: Sex In, God Out (Even for Kindergartners)

Obamakids

by Christopher Paslay

Under the Obama administration, the Boy Scouts, the military, and even kindergarten classes have been sexualized, while God and religious freedoms have been trampled. 

Last December, when Philadelphia School District officials announced that condom dispensers would be installed outside nurses offices in 22 high schools, I though I’d heard it all.  That was until I recently learned that Chicago pubic schools are now mandating sex education for kindergarteners.

According to CBS Chicago:

Some people may think a five-year old is too young for sex education.  Administrators with Chicago Public schools do not.  New to the curriculum this year, mandatory sexual and health education for kindergarten classes. . . .

Students will also take a look at the different family structures that exist in today’s society.

“Whether that means there’s two moms at home, everyone’s home life is different, and we introduce the fact that we all have a diverse background,” said [CPS Chief Health Officer Stephanie] Whyte.

How does President Obama feel about sex education at the kindergarten level and exposing 5-year-olds to diverse sexual orientations?  In July of 2007, speaking at a Planned Parenthood conference in Washington, he said that sex ed. for kindergarteners “is the right thing to do.”

Promoting the open talk of sex and sexuality is a recurring theme under the Obama administration.  Not only does the president support age-appropriate sex education in the early grades, but he also repealed “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” in the military, and stated that openly gay men and boys should be able to join the Boy Scouts.

Now, before I’m vilified as a homophobe, which I’m not (for the record, I support same sex marriage so long as this is legislated at the state level . . . furthermore, my wife and I were married via a Japanese tea ceremony performed by a gay tea master and his partner), I’d like to point out the problem with Obama’s approach with the aforementioned issues, and it is this: kindergarten classes, the military, and the Boy Scouts do not need to be sexualized.  In other words, you can be gay, lesbian, bisexual, whatever.  This is your personal business, and you can live your life any way you want; America is still a free country (as of now).  And you can be open about your sex and sexuality almost anywhere you choose.

There are places, however, where talking about sex and/or openly flaunting your sexual preferences is inappropriate, distracting, and as a whole, counterproductive (and in some cases even dangerous and risqué).

Kindergarten classes, the Boy Scouts, and the military are such places—and as such should be asexual, or sexually neutral.  These are not the proper venues to openly promote sex or sexual preferences.  Again, Boy Scouts, soldiers, and friends and family of kindergarteners can engage in sex with whomever they so choose, but there is absolutely no need to publically advertise this.  This goes for straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered folks all the same.  I may be ignorant, but how is the open discussion/display/advertisement of sex and sexual orientation going to benefit soldiers in combat or training situations?  Commonsense would dictate that this would be a distraction and impact safety and performance.  How is the open discussion/display/advertisement of sex and sexual orientation by Boy Scout Leaders good for children on a camping trip?  Ditto for five-year-olds in kindergarten classes (such discussions should be done by parents in the home).

The irony here, of course, is that while Obama is encouraging such sexual openness under the guise of “freedom,” the opposite approach is being taken when it comes to faith and religion.  As gays and lesbians are being encouraged to be open and proud of their sexuality in the military, Christian troops and military chaplains are now facing court marshals if they “proselytize” or share their faith “too aggressively.”

According to USA Today:

A Pentagon ban on proselytizing has left some conservative activists fearful that Christian troops — and even military chaplains — could face court martial for sharing their faith.

In Richland, Washington, a Christian florist was hit with a lawsuit for refusing to accommodate a homosexual wedding.  In Kansas, a law was proposed to force churches to host same-sex weddings and receptions.

The most egregious violation of religious freedoms is Obamacare.  A 2012 US News and World Report article states:

Monday the Catholic Church filed 12 different federal lawsuits against the administration on behalf of 43 Catholic dioceses and organizations ranging from local Catholic Charities to parish schools, hospitals, and colleges. The lawsuits are in response to last year’s ruling by the Department of Health and Human Services, known as the HHS, which mandates all healthcare plans must provide sterilizations and abortion-inducing contraceptives for free, with an exemption for churches only, not broader religious organizations. Only churches which serve solely the members of the same faith are exempt; religious organizations which serve the general public are not covered—the most narrowly defined “conscience clause” ever adopted under federal law.

In August of 2012, the Democrats even removed the word “God” from their party platform.  In a May 2012 speech at the prestigious Roman Catholic Georgetown University, President Obama not only failed to mention Jesus once in his remarks, but also persuaded the school to cover the name of Jesus–IHS–at Gaston Hall where he made the speech; Obama did the same thing in April of 2009 when he delivered remarks on the economy at Georgetown.

In 1882, the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche proclaimed God was dead.  130 years later, it appears He is at least slowly dying.

Not to worry, though.  As long as religious organizations are forced to cover your birth control (and kindergarteners are well-versed in the dynamics of the homosexual family), all is well in Obama’s America.

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On Corbett Bashing and the Common Core

by Christopher Paslay

Common Core texts indoctrinate young children and teach them to manipulate facts for social advocacy.  Sound familiar, Philadelphia? 

Mark Twain once said, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”

This is the philosophy I use when I teach students in my high school English classes how to write.  There is no substitute for the right word—no true synonym—and until a writer figures this out, he won’t be able to fully articulate his thoughts.  This is the case whether you are writing a narrative, informational, or persuasive essay (the Common Core’s preferred term for “persuasive” is now “argumentative”).

Good writing, especially in today’s culture of limited attention spans, is focused, clear, and accurate.  Good writers can say more in less space—and they can back their writing with examples, details, and evidence.

This philosophy has worked well with my own students at Swenson Arts and Technology High School.  On the 2012 PSSA Writing Test, 74% of my 11th graders scored proficient or advanced—a whopping 28.1% percent higher than the Philadelphia School District average, which was only 45.9%.

Unfortunately, some English Language Arts texts being promoted by the Common Core are no longer focused on teaching students succinct, accurate writing that avoids the use of flimsy persuasive techniques (such as red herrings, overgeneralizing, circular arguments, name calling, etc.), but on writing that actually encourages the use of emotionally charged propaganda for social advocacy.  In short, some ELA texts supported by the Common Core are not making young children free thinkers, but politically indoctrinating them (type the phrase “Common Core indoctrination” on YouTube and see the results).

One interesting case of indoctrinating students and promoting the use of propagandistic writing for social advocacy is the state of Utah’s first grade ELA primer Voices: Writing and Literature, recommended by, and aligned with, the Common Core.  On the surface it appears the text is about literature and writing, but a closer look reveals a major theme is social justice and social advocacy.  This, amazingly, is being introduced not to college undergraduates in Community Organizing 101, but to first graders!

One section in Voices: Writing and Literature teaches young children how to play fast and loose with facts by using emotionally charged propagandistic words to elicit emotions and bring about liberal social change.  It doesn’t teach children to use the right word, as Twain would have advocated (as well as any respectable writing teacher), but to use a word that will get folks stirred-up for social justice, whether or not that word is true, evidence-based, or accurate.

Click on the below YouTube video to see for yourself:

Because the Philadelphia School District is flat broke and has no money to invest in a new set of textbooks, such a primer may not be made available to our city’s school children.  However, the political indoctrination of School District students—and the teaching of how to play fast and loose with facts—is well underway.  Groups like Youth United for Change and the Philadelphia Student Union, who often partner with politically motivated adult organization such as the Education Law Center, are well schooled on the use of propaganda in writing.

All three of these groups frequently use “correlation to prove causation”—a logical fallacy and standard propaganda technique—to imply that Philadelphia public schoolteachers are discriminating against minority students because black students are three times as likely to be suspended or expelled as their white peers (and these groups continue to claim this despite the fact that no documented cases of racial discrimination by a Philadelphia teacher against a students exists . . . except, of course, the discrimination against Sam Pawlucy by a black geometry teacher for wearing a Romney T-shirt in class).

The newly founded “Fund Philly Schools Now” does much of the same in terms of their blatant use of propaganda.  Launched to help raise money for struggling city schools, an admirable goal, their website states:

Since Gov. Corbett took office, it has become clear that when he must make the choice between tax breaks for corporations and much-needed investments in our children, he chooses corporations and wealthy donors every time. The crisis in Philadelphia public schools has been manufactured by Gov. Corbett. He is starving the city of resources and then using teachers as scapegoats and Philadelphia families as pawns.

Propagandistic?  No question.  With Federal stimulus money gone, Governor Corbett has been forced to make due with less, and this has no doubt adversely impacted Philadelphia public schools (as well as most public schools in PA).  But the crisis in city schools was not “manufactured by Gov. Corbett.”

During the Ackerman years, from July of 2008 to July of 2011, the School District blew through nearly $10 billion, spending so reckless it prompted the IRS to open a detailed audit of their financial practices.  The rapid expansion of charter schools—nearly 100 of them in 10 years—also greatly contributed to the School District’s financial crisis.  There is also the matter of Philadelphia residents owing over $500 million in delinquent property taxes.  And the fact that the School District loses millions of dollars in unreturned textbooks and stolen computer equipment each year.  And the reality that recently retired baby-boomers are overwhelming the pension system.  And all the cronyism/nepotism over the past five years from the usual suspects . . . Ackerman, Archie, Evans, Gamble, Fattah Jr., etc.

All Corbett?  Please.

Does the School District badly need money?  Absolutely.  Do I want to see our city’s children get the resources they need?  Most definitely.  But the theatrics and use of propaganda to get money is getting old.  People are growing tired of it.  Attacking public officials is becoming counterproductive (just ask Mayor Nutter).  Why does the rest of the state hate Philadelphia, think we are a cesspool?  Perhaps they are tired of Victimology 101.  It’s like with affirmative action: If groups in need simply took responsibility for their problems and said, I’m having some trouble keeping up, can you please lend a hand?, people would bend over backwards to help out.  But it doesn’t work like that.  Affirmative action in 21st century America goes more like this:  It’s YOUR fault I have problems, so give me what you owe me, now!

Not the best way to get the help you need, or to get at the true root of problems.

Neither is using propaganda to bring about reform (or to teach our students English Language Arts).

According to the mission statement of the Common Core:

The Common Core State Standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers.

Dr. Carole Hornsby Haynes, a noted curriculum specialist and former public school teacher, disagrees with the Common Core’s mission statement and feels they have an ulterior agenda.  She writes in a recent article:

Common Core is not about “core knowledge” but rather is the foundation for left-wing student indoctrination to create activists for the social justice agenda. Education is being nationalized, just like our healthcare, to eliminate local control over education, imposing a one-size-fits-all, top-down curriculum that will also affect private schools and homeschoolers.

I don’t know if Dr. Hornsby Haynes is totally correct about the Common Core, but I know this: ELA teachers should teach students how to make strong, factual arguments, not how to play loose with the facts to support their own political agendas.

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Tar Heel Money Saver: No More Teacher Raises for Master’s Degrees

by Christopher Paslay

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory decides the best way to improve public education in the Tar Heel State is to pay teachers less.   

I have a master’s degree in Multicultural Education from Eastern University (cost me $25,000, and this wasn’t reimbursed by the Philadelphia School District), and I will soon have a PA secondary school counseling certificate from Eastern as well (cost me another $25,000, also not refunded by the PSD).  These advanced degrees not only cost a ton of money, but took up a ton of my time (I’ve been attending Eastern part time since 2008).

Have these degrees improved my teaching?  Absolutely.  I have more knowledge, ideas, contacts, hands-on lessons, classroom activities, and overall expertise in regards to both my teaching and counseling than I would have if I’d stayed within the comfort zone of my classroom and not branched out and furthered my education.

Tragically, there is a movement to end pay raises for educators seeking to learn new skills and broaden their educational repertoire.  Although this movement claims to have the best interest of public school students in mind, it seems there is also an ulterior motive behind it: saving money and balancing budgets.

Consider this recent article from the Wall Street Journal:

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, signed a budget bill Friday that eliminates teacher tenure and—in a rare move—gets rid of the automatic pay increase teachers receive for earning a master’s degree.

The legislation targets a compensation mechanism that is common in the U.S., where teachers receive automatic pay increases for years of service and advanced degrees. Some research has suggested those advanced degrees don’t lead to improved teaching.

Gov. Pat McCrory, shown earlier this month, said in a statement that the 2013-2015 budget ‘maintains public investments in education.’

Although a few other states have talked about doing away with the automatic pay increase for advanced degrees, experts say North Carolina is believed to be the first state to do so.

The budget bill—which drew hundreds of teachers to the Capitol in protest earlier this week—also eliminates tenure for elementary and high-school teachers and freezes teacher salaries for the fifth time in six years.

It comes as states and districts across the country are revamping teacher evaluations, salaries and job security, and linking them more closely to student performance. These changes have been propelled, in part, by the Obama administration and GOP governors.

North Carolina’s $20.6 billion budget for the fiscal year that began July 1 was crafted by Republican lawmakers and came after the GOP gained control of both legislative chambers and the governor’s office for the first time in 144 years.

Mr. McCrory said in a statement that the 2013-2015 budget “maintains public investments in education” and other services and noted 56% will go toward K-12 and higher education—1% more than in the previous budget.

Tim Barnsback, a teacher at Heritage Middle School in Valdese, N.C., said, “Morale is going to be at an all-time low” due to the new policies and budget. “The best and the brightest aren’t going to go into the profession,” he added.

Sandi Jacobs, with the National Council on Teacher Quality, a nonprofit that advocates an overhaul to teacher evaluation and pay structures, said she doesn’t oppose teachers having advanced degrees, but that those degrees shouldn’t be the primary driver of salary increases, which she said should be based more on actual performance.

A number of studies have shown that teachers with advanced degrees don’t, necessarily, produce higher student achievement than teachers who hold only a bachelor’s. Other studies have shown an advantage to holding a master’s in math and the sciences for high-school teachers. About 28% of North Carolina teachers hold master’s degrees.

A 2012 study by a researcher from the University of Washington’s College of Education found that the nation spent about $14.8 billion on the master’s bump for teachers in the 2007-2008 school year.

Is this about saving money?  Absolutely.  A $14.8 billion savings.

Advice to educators seeking to broaden their skills and knowledge via advanced degrees: Stay away from the Tar Heel State.  Your investment is sure to go bust.

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Dwight Evans’ Laughable Plea for School Funding

by Christopher Paslay

After dismantling public education and lining his own pockets, Dwight Evans suddenly gets a conscience.   

Dwight Evans, who represents the 203rd legislative district in Philadelphia, published a commentary in today’s Philadelphia Daily News headlined, “Deathly ill public ed needs state meds.”  My first reaction after reading it was Is Dwight Evans off his meds?

Evans’ article begins:

I’M CALLING IT the Harrisburg Syndrome: the chronic and costly practice of refusing to invest responsibly in education.

Pause the tape right there.  Since Evans is talking about the need to “invest responsibly in education,” let’s examine some of the ways Evans himself has invested in public schools.

First, there is the education legislation Dwight Evans has fought to pass—the Pennsylvania Charter School Law, which opened the floodgates for the privatization of Philadelphia’s public schools, and Acts 46 and 83, which according to the University of Pennsylvania Labor and Employment Law, “allows the Secretary of Education to declare the system in ‘distress,’ and upon making that declaration, to displace the Board of Directors of the school system and impose a five-member ‘School Reform Commission’ to take over the duties of the Board.  Additionally, the Act eliminates teachers’ right to strike, and prohibits them from negotiating a number of issues for collective bargaining purposes.”

In laymen’s terms, Evans has supported laws that have taken tens of millions of dollars away from traditional public schools and put them into privately owned charters (like Evans’ own West Oak Lane Charter); laws that enabled Harrisburg to take over the Philadelphia School District; and laws that have taken away the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers’ right to strike and to collective bargain.

Then, there are Dwight Evans’ business investments.  In 1983, Evans founded Ogontz Avenue Revitalization Corporation (OARC), which as of 2007 had an operating budget of $12 million.  According to its website, OARC takes “a holistic approach toward community revitalization, by focusing on our Five Pillars: Housing and Economic Development, Business Development, Education and Community Relations, Cleaning and Greening, and Arts and Culture.”

Within Education and Community Relations, OARC offers charter school management, with a fundamental philosophy that “Charter schools must be run as a business . . . a business that produces a product . . . that product is a highly educated student.”  OARC has also opened several charter schools of its own.  In 1998 they opened the West Oak Lane Charter School, as I mentioned above, and owns the property at 2116 E. Haines Street that houses the HOPE Charter School, the Philadelphia Center for Arts and Technology, and Ombudsman.

Since Evans founded the corporation in 1983, OARC has grown by leaps and bounds, and has made many people lots of money (including Evans himself).  Interestingly, though, OARC is technically a not-for-profit, 501 (c)(3), and enjoys tax-exempt status, which means they don’t pay federal income tax or property tax on their buildings.

Another one of Evans’ “investments” in education is his connection with Foundations, Inc., an education management organization that gets paid to both consult and run schools.  According to an article on philly.com:

State Rep. Dwight Evans and Foundations have a long history together, dating back more than 20 years.

Foundations collaborated with the lawmaker in several after-school programs in the area and helped design West Oak Lane Charter School. Between 2006 and 2008, employees from the company donated more than $25,000 to his campaigns. Among them, chief executive Rhonda Lauer donated $3,900, chief of staff Emelio Matticoli donated $3,100 and consultant Martha Young donated $5,920.

Foundations has made millions off of the Philadelphia School District.  As stated by Helen Gym on Young Philly Politics:

State Rep. Dwight Evans was a leading architect behind the state takeover of the Philadelphia Public Schools, and a company with which he has close ties, Foundations Inc., became one of the District’s first EMOs (education management organizations) as well as a major recipient of millions of dollars in school service contracts. Foundations has run Martin Luther King High School for the last eight years, taking in management fees as it ran the school. The school has not done well, to say the least, and its poor academic performance placed it on a list for “turnaround,” a national model of restructuring.

When parents of Martin Luther King’s students voted 8 – 1 to allow Mosaica Schools, Inc. to replace Foundations—Evans bragged about how he had bullied the School Reform Commission, Superintendent Ackerman, and Mosaica Schools into allowing Foundations to keep the contract to manage the school.

“I was like a bulldog on a bone,” said Evans, although Foundations was eventually forced to give up running King High School.

Amazingly, like OARC, Foundations is a not-for-profit, 501 (c)(3), and enjoys tax-exempt status.

Now, back to the ludicrous commentary Evans had in today’s Daily News.  Evans writes:

A physician would look at the condition of public education in Pennsylvania and call for broad-spectrum antibiotics in the form of money. Not just your garden-variety antibiotic, but consistent, broad-based funding – similar to what’s advancing in California – to provide for the “thorough and efficient” education system called for in our state constitution.

Broad-spectrum antibiotics in the form of money. 

I had to go back and reread that line several times to make sure it was really there.  It was.  Evans, of all people, is asking the state for more money for the Philadelphia School District.  He suggests doing so by raising—get this—income taxes:

California has ordered the antibiotic. Last November, voters approved Proposition 30, which calls for income-tax increases that will boost California’s K-12 budget by roughly $1 billion.

Evans then throws in a cherry-picked statistic about corporate net-income taxes just for good measure (and to appeal to all those class warfare lovers out there):

The Harrisburg Syndrome shows no signs of abating. The House recently signed off on cutting the corporate net-income tax to 6.99 percent from 9.99 percent. That’s right – taxpayers across the state are being hammered by local school taxes while big business gets a tax cut.

And while corporations affiliated with Dwight Evans, like OARC and Foundations, pay ZERO taxes!

Perhaps the most puzzling aspect of Evans’ commentary was that he used the state of California as an example of a public education system that works (according to Education Week, California’s K-12 schools get a “C” average and rank 31 out of 50), and that Evans refers to his new educational virus as “Harrisburg Syndrome” (it was Evans who fought to pass legislation that enabled Harrisburg to take over Philadelphia public schools to begin with).

Are Philadelphia public schools and their students in desperate need of more funding?  Absolutely.  But the School District’s budget woes are primarily a result of fraud, waste, and abuse of the Dwight Evans variety, which hardly makes the lawmaker a credible voice for calling for more school funding on the backs of the state’s hardworking taxpayers.

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District Cuts 676 Teachers, Despite 1,500 Teacher Vacancies

by Ray Guzman and Christopher Paslay

According to the Philadelphia School District’s Teacher Vacancy List, the district is seeking 1,540 teachers for the 2013-14 school year. 

The Philadelphia School District, according to its website, has 1,540 teacher vacancies for the 2013-14 school year.  Of the 376 schools that currently need teachers, 47 are high schools (485 vacancies); 6 are alternative schools (28 vacancies); 15 are middle schools (89 vacancies); and 308 are elementary schools (938 vacancies).

The revelation that the School District is seeking over 1,500 teachers for next fall is shocking but nonetheless true, at least according their website.  Benjamin Franklin High School, for example, is seeking no less than 33 teachers for next school year: 6 social studies, 4 English, 4 ESOL, 4 math, 3 biology, 2 chemistry, 2 art, 1 Spanish, 1 music, 1 learning support math, 1 bilingual math, 1 learning support English, 1 life skills support, 1 culinary arts, and 1 business information computer technology.

South Philadelphia High School needs 34 teachers.  Edison High School needs 78.  Strawberry Mansion needs 36.  Northeast and Washington high schools need 22 and 14 teachers, respectively.

And on and on it goes.

Although the School District has not released any official numbers, these vacancies are most likely the result of teachers either retiring or quitting over budget concerns and the bleak outlook for the 2013-14 school year (well done, Boston Consulting Group).  How has the School District responded to what appears to be a massive teacher shortage for the 2013-14 school year?

By laying-off 676 teachers.

It’s true.  Last week, 676 teachers received pinks slips terminating them as employees of the Philadelphia School District as of July 1st.  This means they will no longer receive health insurance and must file for unemployment.

The Philadelphia School District’s plans for the coming school year—from school closings to the recent layoffs of 3,700 staff—are fishy, to say the least.  Much of it fails to pass the smell test.  The savings achieved on the shuttering of 23 schools and the merge or relocation of five others has been hotly debated.  So has the preposterous idea that schools will be able to run without counselors, nurses, vice principals, secretaries, hall monitors, or learning support staff.

It’s become quite clear that the Philadelphia School District and School Reform Commission are posturing—playing “doomsday” games in front of city and state politicians to squeeze more money from taxpayers and most importantly, to box the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers into a corner in an attempt to get over $100 million in labor concessions from them; the School District hopes to manipulate the PFT the way they did SEIU 32BJ Local 1201.

These “doomsday” games are flat out dangerous.  Although the School District does have legitimate financial problems and money is genuinely scarce (due in large part to the fraud, waste, and abuse of the Ackerman administration), the laying off of nearly 20 percent of its staff, especially 676 teachers, may come back to bite them.

It’s apparent by the employment opportunities on their own website that come September 1st, the School District will need to fill 1,500 teacher vacancies simply to make the schools run.  And when you do the math—when you bring back the 676 teachers who were laid off and subtract them from the 1,500 plus teachers needed—this comes to a massive shortage of over 800 teachers.  This, of course, doesn’t factor in the vacancies created by teachers who quit or retire at the end of the summer.

Why did the School District cut 676 teachers to begin with?  Political posturing, as I’ve mentioned above.  The SRC wants to put the squeeze on the PFT, Mayor Nutter, and Governor Corbett.  They are also doing it to save money—two month’s worth of health insurance premiums, to be exact.

Seniority is also an issue.  Creating all these vacancies gives principals more power to hire their own staff.

A closer look at the teacher vacancy list reveals something else: the School District is full of bologna when it claims it will end all of its art and music programs.  If they were truly cutting all art and music (and not just putting on a grand show for all the city and state to see), why in the world would there exist vacancies on the School District website calling for various art and music teachers?

Currently, there are 78 music teacher positions, and over 100 art-related positions, posted on the website.

Come September, after the Philadelphia School District is done trying to consume itself to save a little money, and after they have finished successfully tap-dancing for tens of millions of dollars in cash from city and state legislators (and, surprise, surprise, find extra money in their coffers), much of its programs will be restored; the School District can only violate state laws for so long.

The kicker, of course, will be finding a way to deal with the massive teacher shortage they have created.

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Ending the Myth That Seniority Protects Bad Teachers

by Christopher Paslay

High teacher attrition rates show that tenure is not preventing the bad apples from being weeded out.        

There’s a very real belief in the United States that tenure and seniority are keeping large numbers of burned-out, incompetent teachers in classrooms where they rob students of their right to learn.  The National Council on Teacher Quality’s new report “Teacher Quality Roadmap: Improving Policies and Practices in the School District of Philadelphia” is a case in point.  According to the Inquirer, the report stated:

Tenure and satisfactory evaluations are virtually meaningless for Philadelphia educators, and bad teachers can linger in the public school system too long. . . . Teacher pay ought to be revamped to keep strong performers, and effectiveness, not start date, should guide layoff decisions.

Does tenure provide lousy teachers with a lifetime appointment in the classroom?

Hardly.

The truth is that it’s extremely difficult for an incompetent teacher to remain in the classroom for an extended period of time in the 21st century.  The idea that American public schools are housing a significant population of burned-out educators milking the system just isn’t true.

A closer look at teacher attrition rates—as well as the profiles of America’s teachers—yields interesting results.  Here are some statistics from the 2007 policy brief “The High Cost of Teacher Turnover” and the report “Profiles of Teachers in the U.S. 2011”:

  • Teacher turnover is costing America $7.3 billion annually
  • 17% of all of public school teachers quit every year
  • 20 percent of urban teachers quit yearly
  • Over half of America’s new teachers (56%) quit within five years
  • In Philadelphia from 1999 to 2005, the teacher turnover rate (70%) was higher than the student dropout rate (42%)
  • In 2011, over a quarter of America’s public school teachers (26%) had five years experience or less
  • 21% of America’s public school teachers are 29 years old or younger

Teacher attrition is similar when it comes to alternative certification programs and charter schools.  Over 50% of Teach for America educators leave their assignments after two years.  A study tracking teachers working for KIPP schools (Knowledge is Power Program) in the Bay Area revealed annual turnover rates which ranged from 18 percent to 49 percent from 2003-04 to 2007-08.

The truth is, despite teacher tenure and seniority, public schools are not overpopulated with long term educational louses hiding in the cracks.  In fact, the notion that tenure creates a lifetime appointment for teacher incompetence is greatly exaggerated.

America’s public school system is self-regulating.  In other words, incompetent teachers don’t last very long, as the above data shows.  The biggest factor driving bad teachers from the classroom are the kids themselves.  If teachers can’t connect with their students, if they argue, butt heads, and create a toxic learning environment, the odds are they won’t survive.  It’s too draining a situation—physically, mentally, and emotionally.

The same is true for parents and school administrators.  Incompetent teachers are in constant disharmony with the mothers and fathers of their pupils and spend the majority of their energy battling principals.  Couple this with more rigorous classroom observations and school overhauls at the hands of No Child Left Behind, and most so-called “lousy” teachers are at the breaking point; it is all but impossible for them to hang on to their jobs for “life”.

Bad teachers do exist, of course, but in no greater quantity than in any other profession.  You can argue test scores prove the existence of bad teachers—that an unacceptable percentage of students aren’t reading or doing math at grade-level—but does this prove teachers are lousy or incompetent?  Does the fact that homicide rates in big cities are unacceptable prove our police force is loaded with deadwood?  Is our country’s unacceptable obesity rate an indictment of American nutritionists?

The National Council on Teacher Quality’s new report, in fact, recycles an old argument, one that Michelle Rhee, former Washington public schools chief, has been pushing for some time.  In a November 2011 Inquirer commentary headlined “Experienced teachers aren’t the problem,” I refuted her claim:

Rhee insisted that Last In, First Out laws are getting rid of our best teachers, arguing that layoffs should be based on job performance instead of seniority. . . . The authors [of the study Rhee quotes] do admit, however, that first-year teachers are generally ineffective, and that it takes a teacher an average of five or more years to become skilled. This is not surprising: New teachers tend to struggle with classroom management, they lack experience and objectivity, and they have yet to perfect their instruction methods.

. . . If all the teachers in a particular school are rated effective, what’s to stop a principal from balancing the budget by laying off the highest-paid teachers and keeping the least expensive ones? What would protect experienced teachers from politically motivated reprisals if they encourage their students to think critically about school reform and other public policies? And what will keep the new teachers we’re relying on from constantly leaving the system? In my 15 years with the Philadelphia School District, I’ve watched at least a dozen Teach for America educators leave after fulfilling their two-year contracts, off to use their urban teaching experience as resumé padding.

“Last in, first out” isn’t causing us to lose our best teachers. Far from it. Ending seniority-based layoffs might occasionally save a young talent. But it would also harm teacher morale, leave experienced teachers vulnerable to budget cuts and experimental reforms, and populate our schools with inexperienced teachers who are likely to leave.

Scrapping seniority isn’t going to improve the quality of America’s teachers, although it may do irreparable harm to our city’s best educators.

*This blog post is an adaption from a 3/20/12 post titled, “Ending the Myth that Tenure Protects Bad Teachers.”

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