Has Pennsylvania been coming through on its constitutional requirement to provide all children with a “thorough and efficient” education? In a recent interview at WHYY studios, Philadelphia School District Superintendent William Hite said, flatly, “No.”
“Unfortunately we’re left with a situation where we’re trying to only spend what we have,” said Hite, “and that provides resources that are inadequate and insufficient in order to educate children.”
The right to high-quality education
In the extended interview above, Hite, having now finished his second school year at the district’s helm, expounds on a variety of issues facing Philadelphia schools.
“Regardless of where children live in this city, they have a right to a high-quality education,” he said, “and poverty shouldn’t influence that. Whether they are learning English shouldn’t influence that. If they have an IEP should not influence that.”
The district needs $66 million just to provide students next year with this year’s admittedly “insufficient” resource levels. On top of this, Hite says he needs $224 million to begin implementing his vision for districtwide growth.
Hite argues that taxpayers should trust his leadership team’s ability to use those funds to bolster student achievement.
“We know what works. We know it from evidence,” he said. “We’ve done the research on these things that have worked on populations that we serve. And we’re just saying, ‘Let’s do what works.'”
Parents’ rejection of charters
In the interview, Hite also discusses this year’s two tumultuous Renaissance charter votes.
What lessons were learned from the fact that parents overwhelmingly rejected charter operators (Mastery and Aspira) in favor of existing district-led leadership?
“It informs us about the process, number one,” he said. “No one felt like it was enough time. It was very much at the last minute, and I take responsibility for that.”
“It doesn’t say anything about the charter school movement,” he continued. “I don’t subscribe to a ‘charter school movement.’ I subscribe to a good schools movement … I’m not myopic in my view of what good schools are. I’ve always been agnostic about the mechanism. I just want the schools to be great, and I want parents to have those opportunities to put students in great schools.”
Not enough high-performing, non-selective schools
Hite said the city’s public education system suffers a large “demand problem.” He cited the fact that 1,500 students applied for the 300 seats opening in the district’s three new non-selective-admission North Philly high schools.
He said that creating a Philadelphia full of high-performing, non-selective neighborhood schools is a “vision” that has to be an “absolute investment.”
“We’ve been able to do it in tiny increments with no new investments,” he said. “But just imagine if, in fact, we have investments, and we can begin looking at schools across the city.”
The full interview can be streamed above.