Helen Gym, a public school parent, is running for City Council At-Large for the first time
Helen Gym, a public school parent, is running for City Council At-Large for the first time

Right now you probably think I’m a bit silly.  Milton Street?  For mayor?  RUFKM?

Listen, I know you might not be able to process the brother of former mayor John Street, given the whole thing with the casket in Dillworth Plaza.

It’s not about that at all.  I’ve written about this before, but I’ll give you a rehash:   Philly mayors aren’t these all-powerful creatures you take them out to be.  Most of the Nutter Administration gets its daily priorities set by 10 of the 17 members of City Council—the district council members who wield direct control over land use in their districts.   That intersects a lot of municipal government, particularly L&I and Revenue as well as Parks & Rec.   Philadelphia’s built environment has a much larger influence in your life than anything.   Our mayor really has minimal control over it.

Since “mayors don’t matter”, who should be mayor then?   Why not Milty?  Most of you don’t remember this, but in 1979 when Milton Street became a PA senator, he was willing to dump machine politics lock, stock and barrel and switch to the GOP, which then gave the GOP control over the senate.  Ever since this happened, local Dems have had a grudge against Milt.

Milton Street had a lot of fire in his belly back in the 1970s.  I’m thinking it’s that kind of fire that will give Darrell Clarke a big headache and make him regret staying in his cushy Council President seat.

It’s also no secret that I’m not a fan of 2nd District Councilman Kenyatta Johnson… what with his wife Dawn Chavous have been campaigning for Williams and she was also serving on the board of the ill-fated Hardy Williams Academy Charter School which was doing so bad that the charter school dissolved itself before the SDP came in to do it for them.  The kids were quietly moved into Mastery.   Much of Kenyatta’s campaign donations have come from PACs representing charter school proponents.   For fun, I’ve attached Kenyatta’s latest finance report where you can see who has been giving him money.  Some interesting names there.   Since Johnson has basically done nothing with his Council seat the entire time he’s been on it, we’re going with Ori Feibush for City Council.

Lastly… my favorite.   Public school parent-activist Helen Gym announced that she is running for one of the newly-vacant City Council At-Large seats.    Gym would be a great foil if Williams ever became mayor.   And she would make April and May “hell month”–the time when City Council is busy putting together the budget and it’s usually the time when the school district sends over emissaries to beg for dollars.

You don’t have to take my word for it that she’s a great pick… just read everything she’s ever written at The Notebook.

Three candidates.  All three are guaranteed to start an earthquake and give the political machine that operates this city a major case of diarrhea.  Any one of the three making it in would be a huge blow to ‘The Machine’.

Consider it.  The election isn’t that far away.


Kenyatta Johnson Campaign Donors and Expenses

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Graduation rates around Minneapolis. Charter schools are the blue bars. [Source]
Before I begin to go deep, let’s get one thing straight:  charter schools are shit.  Not just that we have shit charter schools, many of them are downright awful, but the actual way we’ve implemented it in Pennsylvania is fundamentally flawed.  The charter idea will never produce success here.  Ever.

These are just five simple basics you need to know:

  1. Charter school operators are government contractors who bill the School District of Philadelphia for $$$
  2. The SDP doesn’t have any resources to police charter schools despite the hot air that comes out of 440 N. Broad, so you get scandals like this one, or the ones NPR looked at, or the charter school that doubled-up as a bar.
  3. There’s nobody locally or in Harrisburg even remotely interested in dealing with charter reform (see 1.), so the scandals will just keep coming (see 2.)
  4. There’s no statistically valid way to compare charter performance to publics, or even charters against each other.  This is by design.
  5. The main politician pushing for charters in Harrisburg is none other than PA Senator Anthony Hardy Williams, who’s own charter school named after his dad blew up on him.  Any public debate on school “reform” is going to feature him as a participant.

Now with the basics out of the way, let me introduce you to a new player on the charter scene, Philly School Choice, who just launched their campaign for charter schools in Philly yesterday.  And you can get a glimpse of what’s coming just by their video:

So, who’s pushing this “info-mation” site?  After watching an interaction between Parents United’s own Helen Gym, on Twitter, the pieces started to fall together.

The real brains behind Philly School Choice however appears to be Bob Bowdon, a shill for charter-ization.   When Gym quizzed Bowdon on who is funding this charter-ization cheerleading effort, Bowden replied with a false dichotomy:

What Bob really doesn’t want Helen to know is that PhillySchoolChoice.com is basically Bob himself.   Let’s look at ChoiceMedia.tv, which was proudly announcing PhillySchoolChoice.com:

Oooo...  "major news!"
Oooo… “major news!”

A quick WHOIS Internet lookup on who owns ChoiceMedia’s website reveals this:

Bowdon Media owns "ChoiceMedia", which is Bob Bowdon
Bowdon Media owns “ChoiceMedia”, which is Bob Bowdon

It’s Bob-fucking-Bowdon running his own media campaign.

Bowdon has some interesting messages.   Here’s Bob on the O’Reilly Factor harping on the “wussification” of schools:

Or what Bowdon thinks about Obama’s Common Core scheme… on Newsmax, of all places.

That contrasts for the last contribution Bowdon made in the Huffington Post, where he made his real peace with the public known:  I can’t even with these fucking teachers unions.

At last!  We have another charter school charlatan coming onto the scene, but this one is a little more willing to reveal his stripes about where the money in charter schools really is.  It’s through obliterating all the legacy costs in teaching:  like fixed pension plans, and healthcare benefits, or having 13 different unions under one giant monolithic organization.  You show the politicians how much you will save to deliver the same product, do it without the legacy costs and profit off the spread between what the public system had to pay and what you’re paying.

If you’re comparing teachers with $75,000/yr salaries and higher with full pensions and healthcare plans vs $51,000/yr with a 401(k) with no matching and basic health coverage, that is a huge gap between the legacy payroll and the payroll a charter school has.  That’s where the sweet spot is.  That’s where the money is to be made off the backs of poor urban school districts.

But that drop in expenses doesn’t actually get pumped to students.  Charter CEOs shy away when questions about their own salaries are asked nor does a single charter back up any claims of increased dollar-per-child spending increase over what the School District of Philadelphia spends by showing their Trial Balance and Income Statement, which the SDP does.  Since performance isn’t comparable to the publics because admissions policies differ from one segment of the SDP system to the next the only school choice you get with charters is: “JUST GIVE US MONEY!!!  WE LOVE YOUR KIDS!!!”  That’s not really much of a choice at all.

While the idea of busting up teachers unions would appeal to your average uninformed conservative, the reality is that there is no actual free market created by charterization.  The only real market is the one that’s been there all along:  pulling your child out of the SDP system and enrolling in private or moving out of Philadelphia completely.  If charters were a great option and improved performance, all the affluent suburbs around Philadelphia would have jumped on the charter bandwagon.  So far, none of them have.

If there is ONE thing you should learn about schools, it is this:  good schools are mentioned in real estate listings, like this:

Parents buy schools.  They do it by cramming into the catchments where good schools are.
Parents buy schools. They do it by cramming into the catchments where good schools are.

The number of home listings where a charter school is mentioned in the first two sentences of brokerbabble in Philadelphia Real Estate:  Zero.

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