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ERIC Number: EJ1015846
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2013
Pages: 3
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-1946-7109
Thoughts on the Power and Promise of Parent Organizing
Quinn, Rand; Carl, Nicole Mittenfelner
Penn GSE Perspectives on Urban Education, v10 n1 Sum 2013
Urban districts throughout the nation are contending with declining enrollment, aging facilities in disrepair, persistently low student achievement, increased competition with charters, and severe fiscal constraints. Philadelphia is a case in point. Over the past year, the School District of Philadelphia (SDP) was forced to borrow $304 million dollars to cover basic operating expenses, close 24 of its 242 schools, and lay off thousands of its employees. As of this writing, schools have been allotted a principal and a secretary but must anticipate operating without assistant principals, counselors, or support staff. Essential student programs have been curtailed or eliminated, and the district faces the very real prospect of yet another round of closures ahead of the 2013-14 school year. Despite these unprecedented cuts, the district continues to carry an enormous budget deficit. This is due, in part, to the state, which in recent years has reduced funding and maintained an allocation formula that places Philadelphia, with its comparatively large population of low-income students and English language learners, at a disadvantage. Although the state has offered a partial bailout, it is contingent on a set of salary and benefit concessions totaling $133 million that have yet to be approved by the affected unions, including the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. With colleagues, these authors spent the summer assessing the political terrain of the district by interviewing a diverse group of parent advocates, organizers, and activists, as well as district staff and elected officials. Their efforts will continue in the fall. However, Lytle's commentary on the "deconstruction" of the SDP has led them to briefly reflect on their interviews, and to offer their own (still developing) perspective. Lytle writes that a social movement ("Occupy our Schools") to reinvent schooling as "engaging, demanding, responsive, accessible, timely, [and] future-oriented" is a solution. These authors agree, and from their interviews, many stakeholders and knowledgeable observers of Philadelphia schools would also agree. But this, of course, is easier said than done. Several of the interview participants described the disparate and disconnected nature of parent organizing for school reform in light of what many see as a vibrant and dense agglomeration of nonprofit and voluntary organizations that could play facilitative roles. The authors call on their fellow educators and organizers to look for ways to better facilitate and channel parent impact and power.
University of Pennsylvania, Graduate School of Education. 3700 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104. e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Pennsylvania
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A