GREAT PUBLIC SCHOOLS FOR ALL PITTSBURGH CHILDREN - A COMMUNITY-BASED PLAN

 
GREAT PUBLIC SCHOOLS FOR ALL PITTSBURGH CHILDREN - A COMMUNITY-BASED PLAN
Great Public Schools
 for All Pittsburgh Children
 A Community-Based Plan
GREAT PUBLIC SCHOOLS FOR ALL PITTSBURGH CHILDREN - A COMMUNITY-BASED PLAN
About Great Public Schools–Pittsburgh
As students, parents, educators, citizens and voters from
hardworking families, we know the future of our community
depends on great public schools. When we come together,
we realize our potential and power to overcome barriers
to providing equitable and excellent public education. We
welcome new partners to join us as we take action for the
students of Pittsburgh.

Founding members:
• Action United
• One Pittsburgh
• Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network (PIIN)
• Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers 400
• SEIU Healthcare PA
• Yinzercation
GREAT PUBLIC SCHOOLS FOR ALL PITTSBURGH CHILDREN - A COMMUNITY-BASED PLAN
Great Public Schools
   for All Pittsburgh Children
     A Community-Based Plan

How do we make all public schools in Pittsburgh            and then describes our evidence-based solutions for
great schools, schools that any family will happily        how to make this vision a reality.
send their children to and that students will want to
attend? At the same time, how can we address the
long-standing disparities in our city, with far too        Overview of Our Vision
many families living in poverty and students of color
                                                           1. Re-imagining Schools at the Center
lacking equitable access to opportunities?
                                                              of Our Communities
   We have a plan. We have worked with thousands
of people in Pittsburgh to develop a concrete vision       • Meet multiple student and community needs.
for our schools. We also have concrete solutions to        • Schools as social and cultural centers.
help us realize this vision.
   We believe that turning to the community schools        • Collaborate with communities as partners.
strategy—making schools the hearts of our neighbor-        • Protect schools as valued public assets.
hoods—is the most important improvement we can
make in the coming years. Community schools level
the playing field and provide access to programs,          2. Rich, Culturally Relevant Curriculum
services and resources that all students need to suc-         and Programs
ceed in school and in life. We believe that all students   • F ull art, music, science, history and world
ought to have equal access to education, including            language programs.
homeless children, children in foster care, children
in residential placements, children with disabilities,     • A full-time, professional librarian in every school.
immigrant students and English language learners.          • A full and varied athletic program.
   By committing ourselves to a community schools
                                                           • The reduction of high-stakes testing for our children.
strategy, we are able to promise all Pittsburgh
students what they deserve: a rich, diverse, cultur-
ally relevant curriculum; schools in which they are        3. Focus on Student Learning
safe, respected and valued; highly qualified teachers
                                                           • Smaller class sizes.
who are given the resources and support they need;
full arts and athletic programs; smaller class sizes; a    • Differentiated instruction.
reduction in high-stakes testing; dedication to equity,
                                                           • P rovisions to meet the special education needs
inclusion and racial justice; and so much more. If our
                                                             of all our students.
district—and we as a city—can make this commit-
ment, we have the opportunity to inspire all of our        • Well-funded and widely available tutoring programs.
children and instill in them a lifelong passion for        • A high-quality, well-supported teacher in every classroom.
learning.
   Our Great Public Schools (GPS) Pittsburgh coali-
tion consists of parents, educators, students, com-        4. Early Childhood Education
munity members, local unions, faith-based leaders          • Expanded early childhood learning opportunities.
and social justice advocates. We are passionate about
public education and have a positive, attainable vi-       • Maintenance of full-day kindergarten.
sion for our schools. This report lays out our vision      • More rest and play time for kindergartners.

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GREAT PUBLIC SCHOOLS FOR ALL PITTSBURGH CHILDREN - A COMMUNITY-BASED PLAN
5. School Climate                                        vania Interfaith Impact Network, the Pittsburgh
                                                         Federation of Teachers, SEIU and Yinzercation—
• Adequate daily recess for all students.
                                                         represent tens of thousands of local people. Work-
• A nurse in every school, every school day.             ing individually and together, we have engaged
                                                         still thousands more in our neighborhoods to learn
• Bullying prevention programs in every school.
                                                         what Pittsburghers want for their schools. For in-
• Fair and nondiscriminatory disciplinary policies.      stance, the Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network,
• Authentic parent engagement.                           which includes more than 50 congregations, has
                                                         convened numerous community forums and large
                                                         town hall meetings, and holds monthly meetings of
Overview of Our Solutions                                its education task force that are attended by com-
                                                         munity leaders. Action United does outreach in
1. Implementing a Community Schools Strategy             some of our most stressed neighborhoods, often
• Build awareness across the city.                       going door to door to work with people, and has
                                                         formed an education justice committee in collabo-
• Develop a citywide task force.                         ration with One Pittsburgh.
• Design a five-year plan.                                   Similarly, Yinzercation has held dozens of rallies,
                                                         parent engagement events, street demonstrations,
• Evidence of community school effectiveness.            vigils, panel presentations, meetings with policy-
• Funding for community schools.                         makers and social media actions. One Pittsburgh,
                                                         Action United, the Pittsburgh Federation of Teach-
                                                         ers and SEIU have hosted teach-ins, public rallies,
2. Finding New Revenue
                                                         protests and trips to Harrisburg for public educa-
• E ngage the entire community in a concerted           tion advocates. And working together as GPS Pitts-
   effort to restore the state budget cuts.              burgh, we have done still more of this community-
                                                         based work. We also hosted the national launch of
• Lobby for a fair funding formula.
                                                         education historian Diane Ravitch’s new book in
• Work with state legislators for charter reform.        September 2013, which attracted a crowd of 1,000
                                                         people.
•W
  ork with the city of Pittsburgh to find mutually
                                                             To create this community vision for our pub-
 beneficial solutions.
                                                         lic schools, thousands of people gave their input
• Ensure that everyone pays their fair share.            through these neighborhood events, as well as
• Consider a small local tax increase.                   through postcard drives, petitions and online dis-
                                                         cussions. GPS Pittsburgh also conducted a survey of
• Work with federal legislators to end sequestration.   more than 900 people in 2013 using volunteers who
• Explore alternative sources of revenue                went door to door throughout the city.1 In short,
   with existing resources.                              this plan for “Great Public Schools for All Pittsburgh
                                                         Children” is truly a community-based plan.
• Partner with local foundations, businesses
   and community organizations.

                                                         Pittsburgh Schools in
A Community-Based Plan                                   a National Context
This plan is the result of several years of work by      In Pittsburgh, like most other large metropolitan
Pittsburgh parents, students, educators and com-         areas, we have long had sizable achievement gaps,
munity members. The six founding organizations of        along the lines of both race and socioeconomic
the Great Public Schools (GPS) Pittsburgh coali-         status.2 Over the years, we have witnessed the
tion—Action United, One Pittsburgh, the Pennsyl-         implementation of dozens of education reforms

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GREAT PUBLIC SCHOOLS FOR ALL PITTSBURGH CHILDREN - A COMMUNITY-BASED PLAN
that claimed to address our systemic and historic         Side. The back-to-back rounds of school closures
inequities. And yet we still have the same gaps,          displaced some students multiple times while creat-
because previous efforts have failed to acknowledge       ing entire “school deserts”—communities without
the most important factors that create them—in            a single public school. This kind of school closure
particular, child poverty.3 The United States has the     pattern, with its lopsided effect on students of color
second-highest child poverty rate of any industrial-      living in poverty, reflects one of the most damaging
ized country in the world, second only to Romania.4       national trends in public education.8
A full 26 percent of U.S. children spend the first five       In addition to budget cuts and school closures,
years of their lives in poverty.5                         Pittsburgh students have experienced some of the
   As terrible as that number is, it is even worse in     most harmful effects of what has come to be called
Pittsburgh, especially for people of color. Of the        “corporate education reform.” This is an interna-
40 largest metropolitan areas in the United States,       tional, neoliberal movement based on free-market
Pittsburgh has the third-highest poverty rate for         ideology that seeks to apply business techniques
working-age African-Americans (ages 18-64). Near-         from the private sector to public goods such as
ly half (45 percent) of all African-American children     education. Corporate education reformers pro-
under the age of 18 live in households below the          mote high-stakes testing, competition, “efficien-
poverty line. A whopping 53 percent of black chil-        cies” through mass school closures, the turnover
dren live in poverty from birth to age 5.6                of public schools to private charter operators, the
   These are the children who have historically           funneling of public dollars to private schools, and
attended the least-resourced schools, with the few-       the weakening of collective bargaining agreements.
est extracurricular activities and AP classes, and        Ironically, none of these “reforms” have actually im-
the lowest graduation rates. Yet these are the very       proved public education. Rather, they have fattened
students hurt the most in the past decade by a toxic      the wallets of a few individuals and giant testing
mix of defunding (through local, state and federal        companies (such as Pearson), drained precious
education budget cuts), school closures and public        resources from public schools, labeled our public
policies aimed at privatizing public education.           schools “failures,” and wreaked havoc with the lives
   In 2011, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett cut al-         of real students.9
most $1 billion from public schools across the state,         Far too many Pittsburgh students face the effects
and then he locked in those cuts again in 2012.           of poverty, racism, discrimination, food insecurity,
A tiny increase in the 2013 budget did not come           inadequate shelter, violent neighborhoods, health-
close to restoring the education cuts. During this        care disparities and the criminalization of children
three-year period, Pittsburgh students alone lost         of color. It is not just that poverty is racialized, but
more than $80 million in funding. The state budget        that racism is still a very real problem. Pittsburgh
cuts immediately impacted these students, who             Public Schools (PPS) has identified closing the
lost art, music and world language classes as well        so-called racial achievement gap as a top priority.
as teachers, librarians, paraprofessionals, tutoring      But we do not like this term. As teacher and edu-
programs, textbooks, supplies, field trips, athletics     cation researcher Camika Royal has argued, “The
and more.                                                 cross-racial comparison that holds up white student
   At the same time, Pittsburgh has been through          achievement as the universally standard goal is
four rounds of school closings in recent years,           problematic.” Royal further argues that the phrase
with a total loss of 39 schools. Since 2000, the city     is inaccurate because “it blames the historically
has dropped from 93 schools to the current 54, a          marginalized, under-served victims of poor school-
decrease of 41 percent.7 While this was largely due       ing and holds whiteness and wealth as models of
to several decades of population decline (which           excellence.”10 Let us focus on the equality gap—
has now leveled off ), these closings had a dispro-       equality of opportunity and income. We have a plan
portionate impact on communities of color, with           for closing this opportunity gap so that we will see
most of the lost schools in neighborhoods such as         real learning and the love of learning improve for all
Hazelwood, the Hill District, Oakland and the North       children.

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GREAT PUBLIC SCHOOLS FOR ALL PITTSBURGH CHILDREN - A COMMUNITY-BASED PLAN
Our Vision for Great Public Schools

VISION AREA #1: Re-imagining Schools at the                     support kids, creating collective impact.
Center of Our Communities
                                                              • C
                                                                 ommunity resources are strategically
We believe that public schools are the beating hearts           organized to support student success.
of our communities. We want to re-imagine our pub-
                                                              • Th
                                                                 ere is a focus on the whole child,
lic schools as much more than buildings that some
                                                                integrating academics, services, supports
children attend—making them so integral to the life
                                                                and opportunities.
of their communities that everyone becomes a stake-
holder in their success. We must shift our thinking           We need to create community schools through-
around what schools are, and what they can be. We          out Pittsburgh, and especially in our highest-need
need to stop viewing our schools as simply the places      communities, so that all children (and their families)
we send kids to be filled up with knowledge for seven      can receive the full wraparound support they need.
or eight hours a day and re-imagine them as commu-         These supports and services are not meant to sup-
nity hubs for pursuing a robust school improvement         plant school staff who are already doing some of this
and anti-poverty initiative.                               work, but rather to augment and deepen these ef-
                                                           forts. Evidence from numerous other cities—such as
                                                           Cincinnati; Tulsa, Okla.; and Portland, Ore.—demon-
Our vision: Meet multiple student and
                                                           strates the way in which cities have been revitalized
community needs.
                                                           by transforming their schools into the focal points of
Reasons and research: Community schools offer
                                                           comprehensive community efforts to marshal and
integrated and coordinated services (sometimes
                                                           coordinate the resources and services their children
called wraparound services) as determined by the
                                                           and their families need.11
school and community. For example, some commu-
nity schools have on-site health and dental services,
social services, tutoring and child care. By definition,   Our vision: Schools as social and cultural centers.
a community school is where:                               Reasons and research: Schools can be the place to
                                                           be in our communities for people of all ages, bursting
   • The school and partners from across the
                                                           with programs that benefit young and old, families,
      community come together to educate and
                                                           singles and seniors alike. They ought to be full of
                                                           activity well into the evenings and on weekends,
                                                           catering to the particular needs of the community in
                                                           which they reside. For example, some community
                                                           schools choose to keep athletic facilities open, offer-
                                                           ing safe places to play with a focus on fitness. Others
                                                           offer adult literacy courses. In Pittsburgh, parents at a
                                                           number of public schools have recently built commu-
                                                           nity playgrounds and gardens, inviting local people
                                                           back into the schoolyard and providing ways to con-
                                                           nect schools with their neighborhoods.

                                                           Our vision: Collaborate with communities
                                                           as partners.
                                                           Reasons and research: Community schools require

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GREAT PUBLIC SCHOOLS FOR ALL PITTSBURGH CHILDREN - A COMMUNITY-BASED PLAN
real engagement with the community. Rather than
a one-way relationship, with organizations simply
offering a patchwork of services (that they choose)
to students, community schools provide a two-way
relationship: Communities define their own needs
in true collaboration with organizational partners,
who also benefit. For example, a school may decide
that it wants to focus on student health and provide
space for a local health clinic, which is then able to
efficiently set up shop at the heart of a community in
which it wishes to work.
   Pittsburgh has the resources to make this hap-
pen. The district is already working with many local
organizations, and the community schools strategy
would allow an even richer partnership with our
city’s extensive network of nonprofit organizations,           Fortunately, after several decades of decline,
businesses, city agencies, universities, hospitals,         Pittsburgh’s population has now leveled off. In fact,
foundations, faith-based organizations and other ser-       since 2002, the city’s birth rate has been flat (not
vice providers. (For more, see below for “Solution #1:      declining), and the district calculates that this should
Implementing a Community Schools Strategy,” which           “start to stabilize school-age numbers.”13 Indeed,
outlines the best practices of community schools            kindergarten enrollment in PPS has been way up
implementation.)                                            for the last two years.14 In addition, a recent report
                                                            revealed Pittsburgh leads the nation in the percent-
                                                            age of young people moving to the city rather than
Our vision: Protect schools as valued public assets.
                                                            leaving it.15 These are excellent signs for Pittsburgh
Reasons and research: Public schools are essential
                                                            schools and communities and should encourage
public assets, built by the people of Pittsburgh. They
                                                            our reinvestment in public schools as public assets.
represent prime investments by our foremothers and
                                                            Once lost, there is no getting these historic public
forefathers in the very fabric of our communities. We
                                                            schools back for the children and grandchildren of
believe schools should only be closed if there are no
                                                            Pittsburgh.
children to go to them. And public school buildings
should never be sold off and then reopened as pri-
vately operated schools. This is a betrayal of the public
investment made by earlier generations.                     VISION AREA #2: Rich, Culturally Relevant
    Yet many large urban school districts, including        Curriculum and Programs
PPS, are now trying to solve the problems of bud-           Our children’s curriculum has narrowed dramati-
get crises by closing schools. Research shows that          cally over the last decade due to the simultaneous
school closings hurt students and are devastating to        pressures of federal No Child Left Behind and Race
communities: 1) School closings are socially disrup-        to the Top policies, state and local budget cuts, and
tive, often weakening the community’s trust in, and         the massive increase in high-stakes testing. In most
respect for, public education. 2) School closings have      of our elementary schools, students now have art and
a negative effect on the education of the children          music only once every six days, which is inadequate.
who have been relocated, as well as on the schools          Instrumental music instruction has been delayed
that must absorb the overflow. 3) Closing schools           and middle school chorus has been eliminated. Even
rarely saves the money that is projected to be saved.       music lessons for students at Pittsburgh CAPA, our
The children moved must still be educated, and there        flagship arts high school, have been cut.
is still minimum maintenance, leasing fees, etc., that         The PPS curriculum has narrowed in other trou-
must be paid on the closed building.12                      bling ways. Recess and gym periods have been cut

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GREAT PUBLIC SCHOOLS FOR ALL PITTSBURGH CHILDREN - A COMMUNITY-BASED PLAN
Budget cuts and the hyper-focus on high-stakes
                                                          testing have contributed to the reduction in science,
                                                          history and world language offerings. These are es-
                                                          sential components of a well-rounded, culturally rel-
                                                          evant education. A full, rich curriculum like the one
                                                          we are advocating here also makes school attractive
                                                          and interesting to students, boosting retention and
                                                          graduation rates.

                                                          Our vision: A full-time, professional librarian
                                                          in every school.
                                                          Reasons and research: Right now, too many PPS
                                                          schools are without a full-time librarian, and the vast
                                                          majority of our students are able to visit their school
                                                          libraries just once every few weeks—and only for the
back for all students, along with rest time for kinder-   circulation of books. PPS is also proposing to further
gartners. Athletic teams in middle schools have been      reduce library services in our high schools.20 But
eliminated and more are on the chopping block. And        there is overwhelming evidence that having a certi-
the number of full-time librarians has been drasti-       fied, professionally trained librarian in every school
cally reduced, with devastating consequences. As a        will enrich our children’s reading, research skills and
result of cutbacks and retirements, many PPS schools      overall learning abilities. In fact, a recent study of
do not have a single working librarian. In the mean-      Pennsylvania schools found that the presence of a
time, as our children have had to make do with a nar-     professional librarian boosts the test scores of all stu-
rowed curriculum, we have been told that the district     dents and is especially beneficial for student groups
cannot afford the basic, quality education we believe     that tend to experience achievement gaps, including
our children deserve.                                     economically disadvantaged, Hispanic and African-
   We disagree. A community can always find the           American students as well as those with Individual-
resources for what it values. And each of the items       ized Education Programs. That same study revealed
we envision below has actually been shown to boost        that students with access to a full-time, certified
student achievement.                                      librarian are almost three times more likely to have
                                                          “advanced” writing scores on state tests.21
Our vision: Full art, music, science, history and world
language programs.                                        Our vision: A full and varied athletic program.
Reasons and research: We believe that a diverse arts      Reasons and research: PPS has already reduced
curriculum is essential for our children. Research        its physical education and athletic programs and
shows that students who study art do better academi-      is now proposing additional cuts (including intra-
cally and have better attendance records. Sustained       mural sports; middle school volleyball, swimming
learning in music and theater “correlates strongly”       and wrestling; and high school golf, swimming and
with achievement in mathematics and reading.16            tennis).22 Yet there is ample research to show that
Cognitive research shows that studying music pro-         physical activity improves cognitive performance.
motes “creativity, social development, personality ad-    Physically fit children have better focus, memories
justment, and self-worth.”17 A recent study shows that    and “response speed.”23 Importantly, schools, via
when students learn an instrument before the age          their physical education programs, have the power to
of 7, the musical training improves the structure of      create, influence and strengthen children’s physical
the brain itself.18 Research also shows that studying a   fitness levels.24 In addition, organized sports offer
second language is “essential to the learning process,    students crucial benefits, from improved academic
creative inquiry, critical thinking … problem-solving     performance to an attachment to and enjoyment
skills and overall cognitive development.”19              of school, self-discipline and experience working

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GREAT PUBLIC SCHOOLS FOR ALL PITTSBURGH CHILDREN - A COMMUNITY-BASED PLAN
in teams. We expect our schools to create multiple,        ship. Ironically, just as above, every point detailed in
varied and frequent opportunities for our children to      this vision area has also been shown by education
exercise, play and develop athletic skills.                researchers to boost academic achievement. While
                                                           we believe firmly that children are not data points, we
                                                           have detailed these proposals here because they rep-
Our vision: The reduction of high-stakes testing
                                                           resent the essentials we must have for our children to
for our children.
                                                           become the people we want them to be.
Reasons and research: Quality assessment helps
students learn and provides meaningful information
to teachers to help them meet the needs of individual
                                                           Our vision: Smaller class sizes.
students. Assessments need to be aligned with the
                                                           Reasons and research: The notion of smaller class
classroom curriculum; need to deliver timely feed-
                                                           sizes has been much debated in the last decade.
back to students, teachers and parents; and ideally
                                                           Research funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates
should be designed by the teacher. By contrast, the
                                                           Foundation in particular has raised the idea that
skyrocketing use of high-stakes testing in our class-
                                                           a “great” teacher can handle almost any class size.
rooms (such as the PSSAs, Keystones, GRADE, CDTs
                                                           However, there is a substantial body of research that
and many others) meets none of these requirements.
                                                           argues for the benefits of small class size, including
   The critique of high-stakes tests is manifold:
                                                           a STAR report that found that “small classes espe-
1) High-stakes tests do not accurately reflect what
                                                           cially benefit poor, minority, and male students.”
our students know, or how well our teachers teach.
                                                           In addition, the success of the Finnish education
2) These tests are not objective, reliable or good
                                                           system has been linked to its small class sizes—a
measures of student achievement.25 3) Students
                                                           change won by Finnish teachers unions.28 Frustrat-
learn how to take high-stakes tests, but not actual
                                                           ingly, most corporate reformers, such as Bill Gates,
content: When they are tested on the same material
                                                           send their own children to private schools where
in a different format, they cannot demonstrate any
                                                           small class sizes are the norm.
real subject mastery.26 4) High-stakes tests cause
                                                              In the GPS Pittsburgh 2013 survey of community
harmful stress for children by putting pressure on
                                                           members, we found that Pittsburghers were practi-
them not only to demonstrate their knowledge but
                                                           cally unanimous in their desire for smaller class sizes
to represent the effectiveness of their teachers and
                                                           for their children: 92 percent of those surveyed said
their schools.27 5) High-stakes tests limit the curricu-
                                                           that larger class sizes would be worse or much worse
lum, by narrowing the focus to reading and math-
                                                           for students. In Pittsburgh, the average student-
ematics. 6) The proliferation of high-stakes testing
                                                           teacher ratio in private schools is 10:1; in charter
has dramatically reduced actual learning time as
students spend more time in testing and on test-
prep. 7) The majority of high-stakes tests are written
by, and benefit the bottom line of, a handful of large
international corporations. We believe that most of
the standardized tests our children take do more
harm than good. In fact, we question whether these
tests do any good whatsoever.

VISION AREA #3: Focus on Student Learning
Our vision shifts the focus from an emphasis on test
scores and the district’s language of “accelerated
achievement” to a focus on real learning, creativ-
ity, independent inquiry, curiosity and exploration.
The goal of our public schools ought to be lifelong
learning, critical thinking and an educated citizen-

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GREAT PUBLIC SCHOOLS FOR ALL PITTSBURGH CHILDREN - A COMMUNITY-BASED PLAN
any high-functioning school district. Dr. Kathleen
                                                          Whitbread reviewed the literature and concluded,
                                                          “Students with disabilities in inclusive classrooms
                                                          show academic gains in a number of areas, includ-
                                                          ing improved performance on standardized tests,
                                                          mastery of IEP goals, grades, on-task behavior
                                                          and motivation to learn.” But she warns, “Quality
                                                          inclusive education doesn’t just happen. Educating
                                                          children with disabilities in general education set-
                                                          tings with access to the general education curricu-
                                                          lum requires careful planning and preparation.”33
                                                          Teachers of children with special education needs
                                                          in Pittsburgh must be given the time to plan to meet
                                                          individual children’s needs collaboratively with
                                                          regular education teachers and other support staff
schools, it is 12:1.29 The new PPS plan is to have        as well as with the children’s parents and guardians.
two to three times as many students per teacher as        PPS students receiving special education services
in other local schools, with a goal of 25 students in     deserve (and are legally entitled to) fully resourced
elementary school classrooms, 28 in middle school         programs to meet their individual needs.
classrooms and 30 in high school classrooms.30 Our
vision calls for maintaining most classes with fewer
than 25 students, and reducing those that have al-        Our vision: Well-funded and widely available
ready ballooned to 30 or more.                            tutoring programs.
                                                          Reasons and research: According to abundant ed-
                                                          ucation research, tutoring programs help the needi-
Our vision: Differentiated instruction.
                                                          est and most vulnerable students in our schools.
Reasons and research: Differentiated instruction
                                                          These programs improve student work habits, help
gives teachers the freedom to teach—to deliver the
                                                          meet individual student needs, reduce nonproduc-
curriculum as they see fit for each child. Differenti-
                                                          tive and risky student behaviors, improve social and
ated instruction means tailoring assignments to
                                                          behavioral skills, and increase the student’s ability
fit students at different levels, allowing students to
                                                          to manage his or her own learning.34 A recent study
direct a portion of their own learning, permitting
                                                          showed that low-income students who had at least
students to opt out of material they have already
                                                          40 hours of tutoring aid improved their mathemat-
mastered, providing assignments that encourage
                                                          ics and reading scores as compared to those who
high levels of critical thinking, having high expec-
                                                          received no tutoring or fewer than 40 hours.35 We
tations for all students, and “providing students
                                                          want the many tutoring programs that have been
with opportunities to explore topics in which they
                                                          cut across the district to be restored.
have strong interest and find personal meaning.”31
Research shows that differentiated instruction can
be a very powerful tool, especially for middle school     Our vision: A high-quality, well-supported teacher
students. As one study argues, teachers who are           in every classroom.
“risk taking, flexible, organized, tenacious, and fleet   Reasons and research: Education researchers
of foot” will be the most effective.32                    agree that good teachers matter and that teachers
                                                          are “among the most important [in-school] factors
                                                          shaping the learning and growth of students.”36 We
Our vision: Provisions to meet the special                support district policies that allow the district to be
education needs of all our students.                      selective in teacher hiring with an emphasis on four
Reasons and research: Education research makes            areas that have been proven to influence teacher
it clear that special education programs are vital to     quality: 1) teacher experience; 2) teacher prepara-

    8   Great Public Schools For All pittsburgh children
tion and degrees; 3) teacher certification; and 4)         is to expose all young children to more language and
teacher coursework. Research shows that “investing         social interaction through high-quality early childhood
in teachers can make a difference in student achieve-      education.42
ment.”37 Equally important, quality teachers must
be supported by quality school leaders, including
principals and administrators. In addition, teachers       Our vision: More rest and play time
must have high-quality professional development.           for kindergartners.
In the context of a community schools strategy, this       Reasons and research: Since the 1970s, according
should be cross-professional development, between          to education researchers, kids have lost nine hours of
the school staff and community partners that are           play time a week. This is most pronounced, and most
providing academic enrichment to students, creat-          disturbing, for our kindergartners. For children at this
ing a cycle of reinforcement for the students and,         age, play is work. Kindergartners have also been forced
ultimately, supporting the school staff’s work.            to swap naptime rugs for lessons on how to fill in test
                                                           bubbles. Instead, we want our youngest children to
                                                           have the time they need to rest, as is developmentally
VISION AREA #4: Early Childhood Education                  appropriate.43

Many education researchers agree that the single
most valuable investment we can make as a society
                                                           VISION AREA #5: School Climate
is in quality early childhood education. However,
since early childhood and kindergarten programs            As a result of many factors—including national, state
are not mandated under state law, they have been           and local austerity measures; the crisis levels of debt in
some of the first casualties in times of budget cuts.      the district; and the district’s focus on teaching to the
We support Mayor Bill Peduto’s call for universal          exclusion of many other school climate factors—our
early childhood education in Pittsburgh.38 And we          children are facing larger class sizes, nurses whose
applaud that he placed early childhood education at        responsibilities are split between multiple schools, bul-
the top of his list when he met with President Obama       lying incidents, and teachers who are overwhelmed by
for the first time, requesting that the administration     paperwork and testing. We have a vision for how we can
use Pittsburgh as a pilot site for an extensive early      create a positive, healthy and inclusive school climate
childhood program.39                                       for our children and for our teachers in the district.
Our vision: Expanded early childhood learning              Our vision: Adequate daily recess for all students.
opportunities and the continuation of full-day             Reasons and research: In 2012, a national group of
kindergarten.                                              pediatricians declared that “recess is as important as
Reasons and research: Due to federal sequestration
in 2013, our district lost six early childhood educa-
tion (ECE) classrooms. This is unacceptable. For every
single dollar spent on ECE, we save up to $17 in spend-
ing on other social services, including prison.40 ECE
programs “reduce costs for remedial and special edu-
cation, criminal justice, and child welfare,” and they
“increase income earned and taxes paid.”41 One reason
that preschool is so valuable for kids is that children
from middle-class and wealthy families hear 30 million
more total words than kids from families living in pov-
erty by the time they are three years old. This stunning
fact, discovered by psychologists Betty Hart and Todd
Risley, is the foundation of what we later perceive as
the “achievement gap.” One way to address this gap

                                                   Great Public Schools For All pittsburgh children          9
class time to a child’s learning.” Dr. Robert Murray, a    Laporshia Massey, died from severe asthma symp-
pediatrician and professor of human nutrition at Ohio      toms. Many believe that if a school nurse had been
State University, and a co-author of the statement, ar-    present in her school that her symptoms would have
gued that children need breaks during the school day.      been diagnosed in time to save her life. What hap-
Recess is also crucial to the education of the “whole      pened to Laporshia could happen to a PPS student at
child.” Yet many Pittsburgh schools have reduced re-       any time, as we only have nurses in our schools a few
cess time, in part due to the layoffs of paraprofession-   days a week.44 A recent survey estimated that as many
als. This has put enormous strain on the remaining         as half of all Pittsburgh students have asthma, far
staff to adequately cover lunch and recess periods, and    exceeding Pennsylvania’s 11.3 percent child asthma
often leaves far too many children under the supervi-      rate.45 A Pennsylvania study concluded, “The unavail-
sion of a single adult.                                    ability of nursing staff adversely impacts student
   Socialization is another casualty of lost recess        health and also creates barriers for academic suc-
time. Students have little time to get to know their       cess.”46 Pittsburgh students deserve a nurse in their
peers when they are forced to stay on task at their        schools every day.
seats all day long. Social connections keep students
                                                           Our vision: Bullying prevention programs
engaged with school from the youngest age. More
                                                           in every school.
recess time will give our children the break they
                                                           Reasons and research: We applaud the district’s
need for cognitive gains, and the play they need to be
                                                           “Parent’s Guide to Understanding, Preventing and
children, and it will strengthen the social bonds they
                                                           Responding to Bullying.” The district has also in-
need to become fully realized human beings. We also
                                                           vested in professional development and children’s
support instructional models that encourage differ-
                                                           programs around the guide. But these efforts have
ent activities and play in learning.
                                                           not been enough to fully integrate bullying preven-
                                                           tion into the culture of PPS. We want our schools to
                                                           use techniques that are proven to work, like positive
Our vision: A nurse in every school, every school day.
                                                           discipline. We support bully prevention through the
Reasons and research: Research shows that school
                                                           use of Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports
nurses improve the overall health of the children in
                                                           (PBIS), which is advocated by the Pennsylvania
the school, help to detect and prevent the spread of
                                                           Department of Education.47 The district must ensure
contagious illnesses, and help to improve the at-
                                                           both that it is addressing incidents of bullying ap-
tendance levels and overall academic performance
                                                           propriately—with nonpunitive measures—and that
of all the students in the school. In extreme cases,
                                                           schools are safe spaces for all students, including
nurses help to prevent severe injury and death. In
                                                           LGBTQ students.
September 2013, a 12-year-old Philadelphia student,

                                                           Our vision: Fair and nondiscriminatory
                                                           disciplinary policies.
                                                           Reasons and research: We worry about our children
                                                           being bullied, but we also worry about our children
                                                           being unfairly (and/or ineffectively) punished,
                                                           suspended and expelled. In Pittsburgh, disciplinary
                                                           action has historically disproportionately impacted
                                                           students of color, contributing to the criminalization
                                                           of black children and the “school-to-prison pipeline.”
                                                           Out of 26,653 students enrolled in Pittsburgh Public
                                                           Schools in the 2011-12 school year, 15,522 students
                                                           (58.2 percent) were suspended. This percentage is
                                                           unacceptable, which the district has acknowledged
                                                           with its embrace of the November 2013 ACLU report

    10   Great Public Schools For All pittsburgh children
that singles out PPS for serious abuse of suspension
as a disciplinary tactic.48
    Spurred on by those extreme suspension num-
bers, the district has since become a leader in the
fight to end the school-to-prison pipeline.49 We call
on the district to continue to improve in this area by
revamping its discipline policies and practices so
that all students are treated fairly and respectfully.50
It should appoint a school discipline and climate task
force of students, parents, educators and administra-
tors charged with rewriting district discipline policies
to minimize the use of disciplinary measures that ex-
clude students from school or that refer them to law
enforcement. New district discipline policies should
also protect student and parent due process rights,
and address disparities affecting students of color,        ways for parents to be involved, from an active PTO/
students with disabilities and any other subgroups of       PTA to volunteer opportunities, an open-door policy
students that are being disproportionately affected.        and support for teachers to create digital connec-
The task force should also oversee programs, monitor        tions for parents (such as online assignment reposi-
data and investigate evidence-based alternatives to         tories and classroom behavior feedback). Because of
exclusionary discipline.                                    budget cuts, PPS eliminated the position of “parent
    In addition, we urge PPS to implement distric-          engagement specialist” in most schools. Yet, in at
twide disciplinary alternatives such as restorative         least some buildings, well-chosen staff members
justice and social-emotional learning programs. We          helped immensely to foster connections to parents,
also advocate training all school staff on the adverse      especially in communities that have historically been
consequences of school exclusion, classroom man-            less engaged with the school and for those living in
agement, adolescent development and relationship            distant neighborhoods.
building, conflict resolution and disciplinary alterna-         At the district level, parent engagement has far too
tives. All of these recommendations will help elimi-        often consisted of little more than a parent hotline
nate the school-to-prison pipeline.                         and the districtwide parent survey designed by the
                                                            Excellence for All steering committee. The district’s
Our vision: Authentic parent engagement                     new Facebook page and VIVA crowd-sourcing tool
Reasons and research: Engaging parents in a stu-            were steps in the right direction. We support efforts
dent’s education is absolutely critical to that student’s   to fully include parents and guardians in the work of
success in school. But authentic engagement is more         the district as a whole, as well as individual schools.
than inviting parents and guardians to an occasional        The community schools strategy will fundamentally
conference with teachers. Although this is important,       incorporate parents and guardians in conducting the
schools must also make sure there are meaningful            needs assessment and designing each local model.

                                                 Great Public Schools For All pittsburgh children          11
Our Solutions for Great Public Schools

SOLUTION #1: Implementing a Community                       • C
                                                               oordinate resources.
Schools Strategy
                                                            • F
                                                               oster strong partnerships.
A community school is both a place and a set of
                                                            • Implement
                                                                       results-driven, shared
partnerships between the school and specific com-
                                                              accountability.
munity resources, including businesses, nonprofits,
healthcare and dental care providers, food providers,       • A
                                                               lign school and community assets
wraparound and social services, tutoring services,            and expertise.
and before-school and after-school enrichment
                                                            • B
                                                               uild on the community’s strengths.
programs. Properly developed community schools
become centers of the community and are open
                                                             By adopting a community schools strategy, Pitts-
to everyone in the community—all day, every day,
                                                          burgh would join a leading group of cities that are
including evenings and weekends.
                                                          using this model to improve learning, health, emo-
   The community schools strategy will allow us to
                                                          tional and physical outcomes for their students.51
pursue a more integrated approach to academics,           For example, 14 years ago, every public school in
health and social services, youth and community           Cincinnati was transformed into a Community
development, and community engagement. The
strategy brings together and coordinates under one
roof the services, activities and supports our children
and families need, such as:                                    Do community schools work?
  • Academic services like tutoring.
                                                               According to the Coalition for Community Schools, “Evaluations of
  • Primary medical care, and vision and dental               20 initiatives nationwide confirm that community schools have a
     services.                                                 positive impact on what matters most to students, parents, commu-
                                                               nities and schools. A recent Coalition research brief concludes that:
  • Nutritional services.
                                                                  • Student learning improves.
  • Recreational, cultural and community-based
     learning opportunities.                                      • Student attendance improves.
  • Child care services.                                         • Students have improved behavior and youth development.
  • Job placement services.                                      • P arent and family participation—in their children’s education
                                                                     and in the school—increases.
  • Mental health services like counseling and
     psychiatrists.                                               • F amilies have more opportunities and support in caring for
                                                                     and helping to educate their children, and in contributing to
  • Early childhood education.
                                                                     their community.
  • A full array of social services that address needs
                                                               “Community schools generate other positive outcomes as well.
     identified by the school and community.
                                                               Improved safety and security, increased community pride, stronger
                                                               relationships between school and community, and greater utiliza-
  We support the following key principles of com-
                                                               tion of schools and other public services and facilities all reflect
munity schools, gathered from the experiences of
                                                               the broader ‘community-building’ role of community schools.
community school initiatives across the country:
                                                               Community schools and their students come to be seen as valued
  • Develop a strong academic curriculum.                     resources, and communities feel a great stake in and accountability
                                                               for student success.”55

    12    Great Public Schools For All pittsburgh children
Learning Center with its own customized partner-           2. Develop a citywide task force. A citywide task
ships. Since the program began, high school gradu-         force will create the specific vision and policy for
ation rates have climbed, achievement gaps have            the community schools strategy in Pittsburgh. It
narrowed, and Cincinnati has become the highest-           will also help align resources for community school
performing urban district in Ohio.52 In Portland,          implementation. Ideally, the task force will consist
Ore., the Schools Uniting Neighborhoods (SUN)              of representatives from the following entities:
Initiative operates 67 community schools. SUN is
                                                             • The district administration and school board.
closing the achievement gap for youth of color, and
SUN students have higher academic achievement                • Community and faith-based organizations.
levels, improved school attendance and better study
                                                             • Parent organizations.
habits.53 In Tulsa, Okla., the Tulsa Area Community
Schools Initiative operates 31 community schools.            • E
                                                                ducation rights groups (such as the Local
Students in these schools have significantly higher            Task Force for the Right to Education and the
rates of academic achievement and healthier school             Education Law Center).
climates than students who are not in the program.54         • N
                                                                onprofit organizations (in fields such as
   Pittsburgh has the resources to make this hap-              healthcare, literacy and mentoring).
pen. For some schools, these partnerships already
exist. Moving to the community schools strategy is           • Public agencies and local government.
partly a mental shift that will allow us to identify and     • Foundations.
embrace the partnerships that are already work-
ing and to build upon them. For true community               • The business sector.
school implementation, all stakeholders must agree           • Teachers and other unions.
to a new way of thinking about the role that com-
munities play in our schools, as well as the role that       • Higher educational institutions.
schools play in our communities. We propose a                 We are pleased that the mayor’s new transition
three-prong approach to rolling out the community          team has already recommended that the city help
schools strategy.                                          to make community schools a reality. While com-
                                                           munity schools must ultimately be created through
1. Build awareness across the city. Great Public           a localized, participatory process designed to target
Schools (GPS) Pittsburgh will begin by helping to          an individual community’s particular needs, we ask
educate the communities we represent. We will              the mayor and City Council to take the initial step of
conduct “C.S. 101 Train the Trainer” sessions for          bringing the necessary parties together in a citywide
members of GPS Pittsburgh groups so that they can          community schools taskforce to begin the strategic
lead workshops in their schools, houses of worship         planning process.
and communities. In addition, GPS Pittsburgh will
reach out to other community organizations that are        3. Design a five-year plan. Pittsburgh needs a five-
already working with Pittsburgh students and fami-         year phase-in plan for its community schools strat-
lies, as well as to foundations and policymakers. We       egy. This should be developed by the citywide task
propose that the school board holds district-level         force based on the community vision expressed in
community meetings to educate the broader com-             this report. We also encourage the task force to host
munity about community schools and Pittsburgh’s            listening sessions in partnership with the mayor’s
vision for great public schools for all students.          office, City Council and PPS. By coming together
   We also propose sending a Pittsburgh delegation         and pooling our resources and knowledge, we can
to the 2014 Community Schools National Forum               take a major step toward improving student learn-
in Cincinnati. Many GPS Pittsburgh members have            ing, helping to build stronger families and commu-
already committed to attending to bring back best          nities, and creating a healthier and more equitable
practices and resources.                                   Pittsburgh.

                                                Great Public Schools For All pittsburgh children        13
SOLUTION #2: Commit to Finding the Resources
                                                        We Need for the Education We Value
How much do community
schools cost and how are                                Pittsburgh is caught in a fiscal paradox: On the one
they funded?                                            hand, we are told that we cannot afford smaller
                                                        class sizes, tutoring programs, art classes and the
According to the Coalition for Community Schools,       other school programs we see as essential. We are
“Community schools are intended to respond              told these things cost too much and that we don’t
to the needs of the students, their families and        have the money to pay for them. On the other hand,
community. Therefore the amount of money that is        we are told that PPS spends “too much” per stu-
needed will vary depending on those circumstanc-        dent. The district’s per-pupil cost is roughly $20,500,
es. What is most pivotal from a financing stand-        significantly more than its peer districts around the
point is money to pay for a Community School            state. So are we spending too little or too much?
Coordinator. This individual is responsible for mo-        The problem is, we are not actually spending the
bilizing community resources and integrating them       entire $20,500 on each student. A great deal of that
into the life of the school. They can be employed by    “per-pupil” cost does not go toward educational
a school district, community-based organization or      costs at all, but rather to debt service, charter school
public agency. Salaries for this position should be     tuition and other expenditures. Of course, we must
at a professional level and competitive with those      continue to look for savings wherever possible, but
of people in similar roles, e.g., teachers and social   there really is no more “fat” to cut without seriously
workers. Communities are using a range of differ-       harming students. We must move beyond the ques-
ent funding streams to pay for this position.           tion, “How can we cut the budget?” which keeps us
                                                        locked in a discussion of budget austerity, school
    “Programs and services at community schools
                                                        closures, increasing class sizes, program cuts and
are financed through a variety of public and private
                                                        charterization of former public schools.
funding streams that support particular services,
                                                           Instead, we must ask, “How can we fund the
e.g., Title I, 21st Century Learning grants, United
                                                        schools our students deserve?” We must expand our
Ways, after school, mental health, service learning,
                                                        way of thinking, reframe the problem, and come
parent engagement and many others. Because
                                                        at public education as a community committed to
they operate as partnerships between schools and
                                                        finding the resources our students need to succeed in
community schools, capturing money is often not
                                                        school and in life. Here are our recommendations:
the issue. Rather the challenge is creating an envi-
ronment in the school that encourages community
agencies and organizations to bring their programs
into the school, and has the school reaching out
into the community. The community schools coordi-
nator is vital for creating this environment.
    “Flexible funds that can be used to respond
to specific needs can be an important impetus for
getting the community school off the ground.
    “Ideally, initial funding would be available
for the salary of a full-time community school
coordinator at a salary that gives them status at
the school and encourages a long term commit-
ment, and $50,000 in flexible program dollars.
Remember though, there is not an exact formula.
Leadership and will are as important as money.”56

14   Great Public Schools For All pittsburgh children
State Revenue Ideas to Fund Public Education

• Close
       tax loopholes: The Delaware loophole costs Penn-             • Rescind
                                                                                 the new voter ID bill: It solves no actual prob-
  sylvania $500 million in missed tax revenue every year, and           lem in the state, has been declared unconstitutional by a
  more than 20 other states have already closed this loophole.          Pennsylvania judge, will be expensive to legally defend, and
  The “89-11” real estate transfer scheme cost Pittsburgh               will cost taxpayers an estimated $11 million to implement.64
  schools alone millions of dollars before it was tightened in
                                                                      • Stop
                                                                             handing money to international giants: The new
  2013. What other loopholes can our legislators address right
                                                                        sweetheart deal with international giant Royal Dutch Shell
  now?57
                                                                        will cost taxpayers $1.675 billion. That’s “billion” with a
• Impose
         a severance tax on Marcellus Shale: Most                     “b.”65
  states with major mineral resources like Pennsylvania have
                                                                      • Fix
                                                                         the cyber-charter funding formula: Taxpayers and
  a severance tax, not just a mere impact fee. This could yield
                                                                        school districts could be saving $365 million per year—
  $334 million per year.58
                                                                        that’s $1 million per day—if cyber charter schools received
• Get
   rid of the new bonus depreciation rule: The                        funding based on what they actually spent per student.66
  Corbett administration adopted this federal tax incentive in
                                                                      • Shut
                                                                             down the Educational Improvement Tax Credit
  2011, and it quickly cost far more than the $200 million it
                                                                        Program: The program costs us $150 million per year by
  was anticipated to drain from the public—and now could
                                                                        funneling corporate tax money that should have gone to the
  cost up to $700 million.59
                                                                        state for its budget needs into the hands of private schools,
• Keep
       the capital stock and franchise tax: Gov. Corbett              with zero accountability to the public.67
  wants to eliminate these as a gift to corporations and plans to
                                                                      • Reduce
                                                                               high-stakes testing: The new School Perfor-
  eliminate them by next year. But if lawmakers freeze the tax at
                                                                        mance Profile system, largely based on student test scores,
  2012 levels, the state could raise around $390 million. Cor-
                                                                        cost taxpayers $2.7 million to develop over the past three
  porate tax breaks like these have tripled over the last 10 years,
                                                                        years, and it will cost an estimated $838,000 every year
  to $2.4 billion every year. And it’s mostly giant corporations
                                                                        to maintain.68 This does not include the millions it costs to
  that benefit from these tax giveaways, without any obligation
                                                                        contract with corporations to administer high-stakes tests to
  to actually create jobs.60
                                                                        our students.
• Eliminate
            sales tax exemptions: Helicopters and gold
                                                                      • Make
                                                                              choices to fund schools, not prisons: While the
  bullion top the list of hard-to-swallow exemptions.61
                                                                        state slashed funding for public schools in 2011 and 2012, it
• Tax
   cigars, chewing tobacco and loose tobacco: Un-                     did not slash funding for prisons, and actually increased the
  like other states, Pennsylvania does not tax these products.          2013 Department of Corrections budget by $75.2 million
  Doing so could generate $56 million per year.62                       ($63 million of which was allocated for correctional institu-
                                                                        tions).69
• Cap
     the discount to businesses that remit state
  sales tax: A Pittsburgh Post-Gazette analysis suggests that
  “big stores like Wal-Mart, Target and others would be most
  affected,” and it would save the state $44 million.63

1. Engage the entire community in a concerted                          the entire projected PPS deficit of $46 million. The
effort to restore the state budget cuts. Since Gov.                    cumulative loss to PPS over the past three years to-
Corbett’s historic budget cuts to Pennsylvania’s pub-                  tals $80.4 million—far exceeding the district’s entire
lic schools in 2011, the Pittsburgh Public Schools                     expected shortfall in 2015. In other words, the loss of
district has lost $26.8 million per year. Just a single                state funding has been devastating to Pittsburgh stu-
year’s loss represents well over half (58 percent) of                  dents and is the single largest threat to the district’s

                                                         Great Public Schools For All pittsburgh children                   15
financial well-being.                                        at the end of each school year and returning excess
   Restoring the state budget cuts ought to be our           cyber charter school payments to school districts.
community’s top priority. Fortunately, Pennsylvania              In addition, due to an administrative loophole in
could do just that. There is money in the state budget,      the law, all charter schools are paid twice for the same
but it’s not going to public education. Budgets are          pension costs—once by local school districts and
about priorities. See previous page for a list of our        again by the state. Our state legislators need to stop
revenue source ideas.                                        this “double-dip” pension payment system, which by
                                                             2016-17 will cost taxpayers $510 million. They also
2. Lobby for a fair funding formula. Following its           need to stop charter and cyber charter school manage-
own 2006 “Costing-Out Study,” the Pennsylvania               ment companies from using taxpayer dollars allocated
Legislature concluded it was shortchanging public            for educating children on advertising and political
schools $4 billion and established a six-year plan to        lobbying. Currently, for-profit management companies
phase in increased state funding for public education        of charters and cyber charters can spend tax dollars
using a new, fair funding formula. The state was two         on seven-figure CEO salaries, expensive advertising,
years into this plan when Gov. Corbett took office and       shareholder profits, billboards, TV and Internet adver-
eliminated the new formula, making Pennsylvania one          tising, and more.
of only three states in the nation without a modern,             What’s more, the state has forced Pittsburgh to
equitable way to distribute its education budget.70 The      keep open charter schools that the school board pre-
current formula costs districts such as Pittsburgh mil-      viously voted to close because of performance issues.
lions, in part because it does not account for the actual    The state is also forcing districts to open new charter
number of students with special education needs or           schools whose applications had been rejected. One
the actual cost of educating those students. Pittsburgh      such recent decision will cost Pittsburgh more than
has a larger proportion of special education students,       $5 million at a time when it is talking about closing
including children with multiple disabilities, than          other schools because of its fiscal challenges.73 The
many other districts. Right now, 18.1 percent of Pitts-      Pittsburgh school board currently has three sepa-
burgh students receive special education services, but       rate charter school applications before it, but is not
the district is only reimbursed based on a flat rate of      permitted by state law to factor in the district’s own
16 percent in the broken funding formula. In addition,       financial situation when approving those charters.
the state’s own Special Education Funding Commis-            We will lose an additional $17.1 million if these three
sion recently found that special education funding has       charter schools are approved.74
not increased since 2008-09, effectively pushing rising
costs onto local school districts.71                         4. Work with the city of Pittsburgh to find mutu-
                                                             ally beneficial solutions. For example, we should
3. Work with state legislators for charter reform.           consider shifting the balance of earned income tax
The way Pennsylvania pays for charter schools is bro-        revenues split by the city and the school district. In
ken. An outdated and seriously flawed funding formu-         2003, the state required the school district to turn
la enacted by the Pennsylvania Legislature mandates          over a portion of its earned income tax revenue to
that our local school districts make tuition payments        the city, which was bankrupt at the time. This has
to cyber charter schools that far exceed what it actu-       resulted in a loss of $84 million to Pittsburgh Public
ally costs to educate children. In many districts across     Schools.75 We urge the district to work with Pitts-
the state, local schools are able to provide cyber school    burgh’s new mayor, Bill Peduto, who has expressed an
services to students at half the cost cyber charters         interest in revisiting this state mandate. The mayor’s
are charging.72 Our legislators need to stop taxpayer        transition team recently reported on many other
overpayment to cyber charter schools—currently es-           ways it recommends the city and school district to
timated at $365 million every year—by limiting cyber         work together to find mutually beneficial solutions,
charter school tuition rates to what it costs local school   including cost savings with shared services. The new
districts to provide the same or better cyber school ser-    cabinet-level chief of education and neighborhood
vice. We should also be auditing cyber charter schools       reinvestment position within the mayor’s office is a

    16    Great Public Schools For All pittsburgh children
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