Saturday, March 17, 2012

NAACP Statement on Chester-Upland Receivership Petition

March 16, 2012

Press Release March 16, 2012
NAACP Statement on Chester-Upland Receivership Petition

The Pennsylvania State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is deeply concerned about the conditions that surround and impact the education of the children of Chester Upland School District. The far reaching consequences of the State’s behavior toward the district directly relate to the capacity of these children to achieve to their potential and to plan for their futures.  The Chester Upland children, as citizens of Pennsylvania are entitled to their constitutional inheritance of a thorough and efficient education.

However, since their return to school in September, the children of Chester-Upland have been caught up in a power struggle between the Department of Education and the local school board. And, these children have languished in a vast dessert of uncertainty. They have suffered daily trauma by this on-going threat to their futures and a chaotic education experience brought about by the state’s failure to provide the resources appropriated for their essential educational opportunities.

At the hands of the State, the children of Chester-Upland have gone without safety, without access to the curriculum essential to their futures, without learning materials, and without appropriate instruction; all of which are necessary to demonstrate academic proficiency on state-mandated examinations. At the same time, by state regulation, their futures hang on their scores on these tests.  This is egregious.

The children of Chester-Upland are mostly African American. No other children in Pennsylvania have been subject to this level of indifference and insensitivity, or such an ominous threat to their preparation for an economic future.  This situation has demonstrated itself to be a vile and life-threatening cruelty perpetrated under the cloak of the authority.

Hearings held by the Pennsylvania House Appropriations Committee in February revealed that under state management over the past years, the district was subject to absentee leadership that failed to financially stabilize the district. It is documented that the school district has been paying off debts from last year to the point that it was unable to afford to education its children this year. It has been found that the state was supposed to provide $33.3 million to the Chester-Upland School District for the first six months of the school year (through Dec. 31).  Instead, the state only sent the District $5.6 million.

As a result, currently, community members are designing public donation strategies to provide the children of this district with necessary school supplies.  As people take these unusual and drastic measures, the state is making sure the charter school within the district gets money before the District does.

Given the facts, it appears to the PA NAACP that the State’s current request for receivership of the school district is an unnecessary over-step that not only disenfranchises the citizens of Chester City, but that also exercise powers that overreach any necessary action.

There does not appear to be a need for a takeover that allows the state the right to sell District property and to hire and fire personnel.   The NAACP is concerned that this step may be in retaliation for the school district’s asserting its needs in Federal Court and thus First Amendment issues may arise when the government seeks to mute their voices.  We believe these issues need to be sorted out in Federal Court and look to seek that end.

Dr. Joan Duvall-Flynn is the chair of the Education Committee of the Pennsylvania State Conference of NAACP Branches.

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