The community has spoken. You have spoken. Yes, you. And you’ve had some pretty amazing ideas about what our public schools can be and how we can get there.
Together we’ve asked: How do we make all the public schools in Pittsburgh into great schools, schools that any family will happily 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 many families living in poverty and students of color lacking equitable access to opportunities? Well, it turns out the community has a plan.
Over the past several years, literally thousands of people have participated in town hall meetings, rallies, community forums, lectures, street demonstrations, panel presentations, vigils, meetings with policy makers, teach-ins, trips to Harrisburg, public protests, and social media actions. To create a truly community-based vision for our public schools, you gave your input through these neighborhood events, as well as post card drives, petitions, numerous on-line discussion formats, and a large community survey. Volunteers, including several parents from Yinzercation, put all this together in an exciting new report, just released by our coalition Great Public Schools (GPS) Pittsburgh.
I highly encourage you to grab a cup of your favorite beverage and enjoy this concrete, positive, evidence-packed, attainable vision for our schools: “Great Public Schools for All Pittsburgh Children: A Community-Based Plan.” In a nutshell, here’s what you said: We believe that making schools the hearts of our neighborhoods is the most important improvement we can make in the coming years. Students and families deserve community schools that level the playing field and provide access to programs, services and resources that help them succeed in school and in life. We believe that all students ought to have equal access to education, including homeless children, children in foster care, children in residential placements, children with disabilities, immigrant students and English language learners.
OVERVIEW OF OUR VISION
1. Re-imagining Schools at the Center of Our Communities
- Meet multiple student and community needs.
- Schools as social and cultural centers.
- Collaborate with communities as partners.
- Protect schools as valued public assets.
2. Rich, Culturally Relevant Curriculum and Programs
- Full art, music, science, history and world language programs.
- A full-time, professional librarian in every school.
- A full and varied athletic program.
- The reduction of high-stakes testing for our children.
3. Focus on Student Learning
- Smaller class sizes.
- Differentiated instruction.
- Provisions to meet the special education needs of all our students.
- Well-funded and widely available tutoring programs.
- A high-quality, well-supported teacher in every classroom.
4. Early Childhood Education
- Expanded early childhood learning opportunities.
- Maintenance of full-day kindergarten.
- More rest and play time for kindergartners.
5. School Climate
- Adequate daily recess for all students.
- A nurse in every school, every school day.
- Appropriate number of social workers and guidance counselors.
- Bullying prevention programs in every school.
- Fair and nondiscriminatory disciplinary policies.
- Positive behavior support and restorative justice.
- Authentic parent engagement.
By committing ourselves to a community schools strategy, we are able to promise all Pittsburgh students what they deserve: a rich, diverse, culturally relevant curriculum; schools in which they are safe, respected and valued; highly qualified teachers who are given the resources and support they need; full arts and athletic programs; smaller class sizes; a reduction in high-stakes testing; dedication to equity, inclusion and racial justice; and so much more. If our district—and we as a city—can make this commitment, we have the opportunity to inspire all of our children and instill in them a lifelong passion for learning.
OVERVIEW OF OUR SOLUTIONS
Implementing a Community Schools Strategy
- Build awareness across the city.
- Develop a citywide task force.
- Design a five-year plan.
- Evidence of community school effectiveness.
- Funding for community schools.
Finding New Revenue for Our Children
- Engage the entire community in a concerted effort to restore the state budget cuts.
- Lobby for a fair funding formula.
- Work with state legislators for charter reform.
- Work with the city of Pittsburgh to find mutually beneficial solutions.
- Ensure that everyone pays their fair share.
- Consider a small local tax increase.
- Work with federal legislators to end sequestration.
- Explore alternative sources of revenue with existing resources.
- Partner with local foundations, businesses and community organizations.
I encourage you to read the report for full details on our collective vision and proposed solutions. And stay tuned for more events coming soon where you can continue to be a part of this crucial conversation and help shape the future of public education in Pittsburgh. You can help today by sharing this summary and full report with your friends and colleagues. Thank you!