Philadelphia schools are being murdered, and liberals like it that way
The following is a work of opinion submitted by the author.
In "Letters from the Earth," Mark Twain differentiated between rotely mumbled Sunday prayers and "supplications of the heart," an individual's core desires and beliefs. In Twain's story a coal executive prays for the poor on Sunday and profits from their misfortunes the remainder of the week, having wished in his heart for a rise in coal prices regardless of social pain. The reader learns that Twain's angel clerks have been processing the deeper desires as the actual prayer.
As we witness the systematic murder of Philadelphia's public schools and the destruction of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, most self-identified liberals mumble kind words about the need for fairness to student and teacher alike, bright futures and equal education for all. It is evident that the knuckle-draggers in Harrisburg have an unreconstructed racist hatred and fear of all things urban, and my message is not for them. We can at least credit them with a crude honesty and credit slow-witted Gov. Tom Corbett with actions matching his rhetoric.
Rather, we need concern ourselves with the (neo)liberal, whose supplications of the heart manifest in a core belief that the African-Americans, Latinos and Asian-Americans who overwhelmingly populate urban districts were a lost cause at conception, and that these students are not deserving of anything approaching equitable education, especially if this would in any small way inconvenience real estate speculators. Beyond this, the liberal typically believes that urban teachers are not professionals, are not doing a "real job" in the "real world," and are not worth paying as they serve no useful social function.
The Democratic Party has now run Philadelphia longer than any single party held sway in any country of the Soviet bloc; it becomes impossible to hang the priorities manifested in its taxation, budgeting and expenditure on the admittedly nasty Republicans. Similarly it becomes impossible to state that the zombie march of registered Democrats to the polls overwhelmingly to elect and re-re-re-elect our native criminal class — often by pushing one button for all offices so as not to waste time reading each individual candidate's name — is the result of unfamiliarity with those priorities. The only conclusion is that, under it all, our gentle liberals, meek and mild, like what they see and want more of it.
Pew report anything but charitable
Moral and intellectual cripples at the Pew Charitable Trusts — God's own representatives on Earth in the local non-profit imbroglio — created a remarkable 2011 document titled "Closing Public Schools in Philadelphia: Lessons from Six Urban Districts." Similar in form and content to diagrammed accounts of the effective packing of slave ships, and to concentration camp blueprints, this sociopathic report formed the justification and path for the recent closure and consolidation of city schools.
Filled with bright colors and charts — charts mean we are doing science — the work is clearly that of pod people who know the price of everything and the value of nothing. If this is charitable, the Pew Indifferent Trusts must be scrawling messages of Lovecraftian horror.
Of the 44 recently proposed city public school closings, 25 schools had student populations 91 percent or more black; 33 were 83 percent or more black. All of this in a city with a 41 percent white population. Against this backdrop, liberal Philadelphia smugly self-congratulates for ushering in an era of post-racialism by electing an Obama and a Nutter. We can only hope someone has informed the students of these closed schools that racism has been defeated.
Strange standards, stranger priorities
The Pew report's central tenet is the normalization of almost comically overcrowded schools with minimum 33-student classrooms. The apparent preferred model for stacking brown children, as pioneered by our sharper military minds at Abu Ghraib, would take after my alma mater, the 3,600 student-packed Northeast High, where "only" 61 percent of the inmates are considered officially impoverished. Anything less than packing the maximum number of minorities into confined spaces, limited at present only by a mandate of the teachers union contract, is declared a "waste" of "surplus."
Northeast High has more than four times the number of students in an average American public high school, about six times the students in an average Pennsylvania public high, and several times the number of a suburban American public school. A Philadelphia public school has between double and triple the student-teacher ratio of a white suburban classroom; it is difficult to locate a suburban school Pew would keep open given their closure formula.
Against this backdrop we cut supervising adults and services even more, because they are for poor kids and because we can. Nowhere in the industrialized world, except in an American public school serving non-white populations, would maintaining the population density of a concentration camp be considered a driver of "surplus" buildings and "surplus" space.
Contrast the harsh requirements of Pew and SRC "percent utilization" overcrowding for city schools with the realities of our suburban public schools. The student-teacher ratio at Harriton High in Lower Merion School District is 10.6:1. It educates 1,050 students. If we assume that each class "should" have 33 students, Harriton should be closed because it doesn't serve 3,269 students. This is a lousy 32 percent utilization, clearly a "waste" of space and resources.
Too rich an area for reasonable comparison? Middle-class Abington High has 584 students with a student-teacher ratio of 16:1. Abington "should" squeeze 1,205 students into the building in classes of 33, and "should" be closed for its apparent miserable 48 percent utilization. Fortunately our suburban students, ironically in more heavily Republican-voting communities, are not subject to these calculations and attend schools with First World standards.
A Kafkaesque hypocrisy
Figure 4 of the Pew report, a timeline for shoving school closings into the collective rectum, tells us all we need to know about the commitment to democratic norms and basic fairness on the part of our best and brightest. December 2010 is listed as the time for "public input," followed by the February 2011 task of "public asked to focus on key priorities," dead corporate language translating as "sit down and shut up." Parents and teachers attempting to maintain their schools were not focused on key priorities, namely that they recognize themselves as surplus underclass population and go die. February 2012 is noted as "School Reform Commission expected to vote on closings" with June 2012 as "Some schools are closed" — because the notion of the SRC "voting" in any meaningful sense of the word is implicitly a bad joke. This is essentially a murder trial timeline with the execution date already written in ink, and the accused being asked to have faith in the process.
The 21-page report spends one-third of one page on the impact of closures on students, but several pages contain recommendations on propagandizing the population to accept blatant attacks on their communities and families. Suggestions include praise for Philadelphia's hiring of out-of-state vulture corporations URS Corp. and DeJong-Richter, who specialize in closing urban schools. For this, apparently, we have money. I am uncertain as to what specific skill set is required to lock the doors of a building and tell the locals to self-fornicate, but we are assured this is a job the city could not do alone.
Pew's massive hypocrisy comes partially in the form of its residence at One Commerce Square, a Center City office building that has struggled to maintain occupancy, and whose ownership filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protections in 2009, arguing that the value of the building is less than its debt obligation. All across Center City, office buildings have struggled with occupancy issues. In the face of these unused spaces, Philadelphia Democrats appealed to Harrisburg and received $47.25 million in tax breaks and incentives for Comcast to build the largest office building yet. Pew appears to have refrained from producing a brightly colored, chart-filled report detailing how they and other tenants need to move house so that offices might be consolidated and surplus buildings be sold off or razed.
The Trusts and their employees and works are, of course, supported through tax deductible donations, which by definition have weakened the very tax base that makes public school funding possible. "Closing Public Schools in Philadelphia" fails to mention this fact.
Defenders of the Left, but not the left-behind
Lest we believe the murder of public schools by urban liberals to be merely the result of incompetence, one should examine the ongoing push to break the Chicago teachers union by former Obama chief of staff and current mayor Rahm Emanuel. His efforts include the ultimate goal of stealing public pensions — about the only honestly accounted money left in America — and handing the money to the Democrats' criminal banker backers. In Chicago's case, this is through the dissolution of a long-standing pension board and its proposed reformation as a smaller body with a board majority named by ... Rahm Emanuel.
From Barack Obama on down to dogcatcher, the supposed party of the Left mouths soothing platitudes on the value of each child and of public education. In practice, the selection of Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education, the implementation of Race to the Top, and the continued devotion of public resources to massive charter school fraud are abundant proof of the supplication of the heart that public schools are an error to be eradicated. The liberal is enthusiastic for the sainted Obama, who would rather spend billions to scatter parts of a brown child on both sides of a Middle Eastern road than millions for the education of a brown child in this city. The liberal heart takes stock, is untroubled, and re-elects the fellow feeling no particular twinge of responsibility for either side of that equation.
The money is there
We see a claim that the city has no money for schools. Examining that claim reveals a different image; what we mean to say is that "the city" has abundant money for anything but the schools. The city forfeits over $100 million in school funding through a pure Reaganomics 10-year tax abatement scheme that represents clear and total class war, a transfer of wealth directly from the have-nots to the haves. Nowhere else in the industrialized world will one find a major city giving a total tax break to all new construction, no strings attached. Democrats have repeatedly weighed the convenience of someone constructing a $750,000 house in a gentrified neighborhood during a housing bubble against the necessity to educate the less desirable races and found the undesirables' needs lacking merit.
Beyond this the city has allowed $515 million of back property taxes to go uncollected, including upon 57,000 properties not occupied by owners, purely speculative investments. Democrats have repeatedly weighed the convenience of speculating tax scofflaws against the necessity to educate the less desirable races and found the undesirables' needs lacking merit.
The city has let $1 billion in forfeited bail go uncollected over decades. Democrats have repeatedly weighed the collection of bail monies even from absconded criminals against the necessity to educate the less desirable races and found the undesirables' needs lacking merit.
The city shovels as much as $6,700 monthly to vampire hags such as Marge Tartaglione and Joan Krajewski, in a warped and fraudulent system of pension for what we are told are temporary public service elective offices. Having balanced the needs of poor children against the ability of the city to further enrich public trough millionaire hogs, we again find the children's case lacking merit.
City gifts and grafts continue apace, with nary a concern for lack of funds: $400 million of borrowed money to the Eagles and Phillies for stadium construction, $9.5 million for a South Philly spy center, cars for City Council, an ice rink at City Hall.
So please stop telling me that we do not have money for schools and that you wish it were otherwise. We see only the manifestations of our community supplications of the heart.
Christopher Randolph is a graduate of Northeast High School in Philadelphia. He lives in South Philly.