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Advocacy coalition shifts focus to funding, charter accountability

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

After the School Reform Commission voted to close 24 District schools, the Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools (PCAPS), which fought hard against the closings, is now looking to the future.

It has decided to focus its advocacy around three issues: equitable school funding, community schools, and charter accountability.

The coalition will also work to involve people who are not active members of one of the PCAPS member groups, said steering committee member Ron Whitehorne, a retired District teacher.

At a meeting after the closings vote that was called to set priorities, the coalition also addressed its structure.

“Over the last year, PCAPS has been a vertical organization; all of the work gets done through the groups that belong to the coalition,” Whitehorne said. “There has been very little opportunity for people who are just engaged in these struggles to get involved in the actual organizing.”

PCAPS’ new strategy will include:

  • Advocating for a statewide funding formula and fair tax structure that would bring more revenue to District schools;
  • Identifying and monitoring community school models in other cities that could serve as alternatives to future closings here;
  • Launching a charter accountability campaign that will seek to limit charter growth and make sure that charters do not use intimidation tactics against staff seeking collective bargaining rights.

“We are looking to inform the community of the strategies, goals, and objectives, and get their input for how we can move forward with these different campaigns,” said Quanisha Smith of ACTION United, who co-chairs PCAPS’ community schools task force.

“The more diversity we have, and the more parents, teachers, and students from different audiences we attract, the more power we have to … transform our public schools,” she said.

Wendy Coleman, a teacher who represents the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers in the coalition, said she looks forward to drawing more community and parent voices into the coalition.

“There is competition between parents and teachers, [and the idea that] we don’t want the same things – when we do,” said Coleman.

“So we’re working together in incredible ways to save public education.”

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