This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
To the editors:
The No Child Left Behind law empowers parents and caregivers to make informed decisions about their child’s education. Parents have a right to hold the School District of Philadelphia accountable and to be a part of decision-making committees at their child’s school, such as school councils or Title I advisory committees.
Parents – are you more often than not finding out what districtwide programs and budget decisions are impacting your schools by reading about it in the newspaper?
Recently, the School District instructed schools to cut 30 percent from their budgets. I learned about it from the newspaper. In November 2005, the District informed staff that it was facing a $19 million shortfall but was confident the “challenge” could be addressed without impacting individual schools. It wasn’t. By the end of February, principals were to meet with regional superintendents about the cuts.
Were parents invited to those discussions? Were parents informed how their children might be impacted? I join many of my parent colleagues in being the “last to know” about decisions impacting my child’s school. This is unacceptable.
The School District has a districtwide parent involvement policy. Parents should have recently received this seven-page booklet. Throughout this comprehensive document, the District speaks of involving parents at the decision-making table. Great news!
But parents and caregivers should ask yourselves the following questions. Have you been invited onto your school’s decision-making committees? Are your school council and Home and School a part of the school budget process? Do you see your school’s budget? Do you know how much money is coming to your school for your child? Have you been given input into your school’s School Improvement Plan?
If not, I strongly encourage you to talk with your school’s principal and your Home & School and to also contact the District’s Office of Family Engagement (215-400-4180) and ask for their support in ensuring your school’s compliance with the parent involvement policy.
Spring is school budget time at your child’s school. Parents, it is time to step up your involvement and be invited to the table. After all, it’s about our children.
Karen D. Lash
President, Forrest Elementary Home & School