This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
On May 19, Philadelphians will hit the polls to winnow the field of City Council at-large candidates. Out of 28 declared candidates, only seven will be elected in November (including at least two from a minority party). Each party can run five candidates in the general election. The Notebook reached out to the candidates, asking their opinions on the election’s most gripping issue: education.
Where do candidates stand on the School Reform Commission’s decision to approve five new charter school applications? Whose job is it to find more money for public schools, the city’s or the District’s? Absent an agreement with the teachers’ union, do they think the SRC is right to pursue concessions through the courts? And finally, what ideas do they have for how the District can fix its financial problems?
The Notebook has been posting statements from City Council candidates responding to these prompts in the order we received them. Today’s statement comes from Democrat Blondell Reynolds Brown, a member of City Council since 2000 and a former Philadelphia School District teacher. She is a graduate of Philadelphia High School for Girls and Penn State University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree and master’s in education.
Responses were edited for length and clarity.
The future of Philadelphia’s public schools is the most pressing matter to City Council and many of our constituents.
As a former teacher, I know how hard our educators work and how difficult a job it can be.
I am a proud graduate of Girls’ High, and my daughter also attended an all-girls school. There are benefits of single-sex educational institutions and I have advocated for a Girls’ Latin charter school.
However, I share Gov. Wolf’s concerns about spending more money on charter schools, when the District faces an estimated $80 million budget deficit. Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan has said more money going to charter schools will only keep the traditional public schools struggling to operate with inadequate staffing levels and supplies.
Last summer, I introduced legislation to provide $27 million for schools through the Philadelphia Authority for Industrial Development as well as an additional tax on electronic cigarettes that would benefit the School District. City Council has shown its dedication toward funding the School District.