What with Hite being a product of the Broad Foundation (which is where wealthy “reformers” train superintendents on how to strategically dismantle the school districts they’re groomed to take over), this does not surprise me. But it still infuriates me, and if I still had small children, I’d yank them out and home-school them rather than feed my kids to the for-profit school machine:
William R. Hite Jr. knows it’s a tough ask: $120 million from a state that historically views Philadelphia and its public schools “as a cesspool.”
So, the superintendent figures, the only way the nearly-broke Philadelphia School District is getting the cash it needs from state coffers is to end teacher seniority.
“If we stand any chance to get money from Harrisburg, it’s going to have to support something that is different from what we have now,” Hite told the Inquirer Editorial Board on Thursday, adding that legislators are unlikely to support a system where “individuals get another increase just because they’re remaining on the job another year.”
On the table is a budget so bleak that schools would not have counselors, books, or extracurriculars next year. To add even some of those basics back, Hite and the School Reform Commission have requested $304 million – the $120 million from Harrisburg plus $60 million from the city, with the rest in labor concessions.
Mayor Nutter this week proposed giving the district $95 million by taxing cigarettes at $2 per pack and raising the liquor-by-the-drink tax to 15 percent.
But that still leaves a big hole for Harrisburg to fill. And, Hite said, outside the city, “Philadelphia is thought of as a cesspool.”
People believe that the district operates inefficiently, wastes money, and “protects individuals that are not serving children,” Hite said.
Among legislators, “there’s no desire to support the status quo,” the superintendent said.
Status quo? The status quo is that almost half of Philadelphia public school students live in deep poverty — but we’re not supposed to talk about that anymore. We’re supposed to implement more standardized testing, and grade teachers on the results. Kind of like grading ER doctors on whether gunshot victims survive.
Hite has made no secret of his desire to end seniority in a new Philadelphia Federation of Teachers contract – saying the district ought to be valuing “the performance of individuals as it relates to outcomes for students vs. how long they’ve been in the position.” He also takes issue with the last in, first out provision that governs layoffs.
If successful, getting rid of seniority will accomplish exactly what Hite wants it to do. It will drive the most educated and experienced teachers into the suburban districts, or out of teaching entirely, so the schools can be left to the profit margins of Big Reform. God help us.