Saturday, May 5, 2012

my interview with Bruce Dixon about the crisis of impending public school closings

Last week I talked to Bruce Dixon about his April 26, 2012 article for the Black Agenda Report called "Why Isn't Closing 40 Philadelphia Public Schools National News? Where is the Black Political Class?" He makes an important point in this article that telling the story might give people the notion that the ultimate power is in their hands and not the hands of mayors or chambers of commerce or the so called CEOs of the schools system. Since this article, the Philadelphia City Paper produced a key article by Daniel Denvir about this crisis called "Who's Killing Philly Public Schools" where he provides an interesting history of Philly public school system that does not interrogate the increasing city budget allocations on police. Like mainstream reporting of this crisis, Denvir writes sympathetically for Thomas Knudsen, the "Chief Recovery Officer" of the School District when he says that "Knudsen and his team will need to close a $218 million deficit for the coming year," but he does not interrogate the whole finance industry favoring function of a chief recovery officer who gets paid to essentially justify slashing school budgets while budgets for city police and criminal justice functions increase. Denvir provides an important history of the school district but does not ask the questions that will fundamentally challenge the racist colonial assumptions of the city budget like: why is the city spending more on police than on public schools, or why are executive salaries increasing while budgets for school supplies decreasing? I appreciated Denvir pointing out that former school board leader David Hornbeck fought for more public school funding. However, typical of a white liberal perspective, he did not mention the strong efforts that former mayor John Street made to sue the state for increased public school funding which is something that current mayor Michael Nutter refuses to do because like many of the School Reform Commission, they consider the privatization of the public schools a foregone conclusion. However, as Dixon said, telling this story needs to inspire its readers and the Philadelphia community that the ultimate power is in the hands of the people. As Reverend Mark Tyler of Mother Bethel AME Church suggested earlier this week Sunday, Mayor Nutter is not above being recalled. I wholeheartedly agree with this suggestion because he is not fighting hard enough against Corbett to get adequate public education funding and we need to fight much harder not to simply accept the closing of public schools. I voted for Diop Olugbala for Philly mayor in 2011 and was glad to notice that next to eight thousand Philly voters also joined me. I think if already this number was dissatisfied with Nutter, his obvious assumption that this anger at closing public schools needs to be challenged. This number in response to his sanctioning the closing of public schools ought to grow. We need to understand that the ultimate power is in the hands of us, the people. -RF. Photo art courtesy of Evan M. Lopez and Neal Santos from the City Paper of Philadelphia's website at Audio courtesy of WPEB West Philadelphia Community Radio, 88.1FM, Audacity, and DivShare.