This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Fifty parent leaders representing 17 Philadelphia schools attended workshops in early November to learn about their school budgets and how they can have an impact on them. The workshops were organized by the Philadelphia chapter of the Cross City Campaign for Urban School Reform, a local coalition of public school advocacy and activist organizations.
Parents at the workshops heard presentations about how schools have been funded historically and what the current process is for school budgets. Larry Sperling, director of school resource support at the School District, explained how the District allots funds to schools and what rules principals must follow when budgeting.
Parents also shared their concerns about the budgeting process at the workshop. They shared stories about not being able see their schools’ budgets; not having a way of ensuring that the budgets were spent appropriately; and not gaining much clout through participation in local school councils. Some parents said they were surprised to learn that schools have more money to spend than they thought.
“The workshop gave me a look into things I was always wondering about, but didn’t think that I had access [to], or a right to know,” commented Florence Mason, a workshop participant and parent leader with ACORN.
Mason expects to take what she learned back to her school. “We don’t have to sit by and accept mediocrity,” she said. “We have an opportunity to change that.”
At a follow-up workshop in January, parents will look at simulated budgets and strategize about how to make changes they believe would be positive for their schools.
In February, Cross City will bring together parent leaders, principals, and teachers for two sessions of more intensive school-based budgeting trainings. Together, parents, teachers, and principals will develop school budgets based on their schools’ needs.
For more information about the workshops, contact Fran Sugarman of Cross City Campaign at 215-665-1400, x3351 or firstname.lastname@example.org.