Sign the Petition to the Board of Education: Stop Silencing Community Voices

Philadelphia Board of Education

Support UrbEd, Our City Our Schools coalition and Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools:

In December, without any public notification, the Board of Education began a series of reversals of long-standing District policies on public speakers. This change was made in secret with no public deliberation, participation, or vote. The Board imposed an arbitrary cap on the number of speakers, limiting students to 10 and adults to 30. They reduced speaker time from three minutes to two minutes. In addition, the time to submit written testimony before each action meeting was lessened.

The Pennsylvania Sunshine Act protects citizens’ right to fully participate in their government’s business and to be heard before any official business is voted on. The Board of Education is the governing body for Philadelphia’s 202,944 students. They oversee an annual budget of $3.2 billion. The Board’s monthly Action Meeting is now the only venue in which the business of the District--the nation’s eighth largest--takes place. The Board’s inexplicable abolition of three of its four committees at the end of 2020 had already eliminated opportunities for public comments and dialogue with the Board on official items. Decisions are made, and votes are cast, on educational programs, capital improvements, health and safety matters. The Board should welcome the testimony of every parent, student, staff, and community member who wishes to be heard on all crucial issues decided by the Board.

At the January 2021 Action Meeting, the official speaker list contained thirty adult speakers, the full amount allowed. Before the February Action, several people who had signed up to speak received emails from the District stating that their placement on the speaker list could not be “confirmed”, that the Board would decide whether they could speak when the sign-up window closed. Thus, an unknown number of participants were denied their opportunity to speak at an official Board meeting or to comment on a specific item before the Board vote. The Board has ignored the public outcry from the community, local politicians,and the Education Law Center. APPS and UrbEd, represented by the ACLU, has initiated legal action. Still, the Board refuses to reverse these undemocratic changes.

Join with us as we demand that the Philadelphia Board of Education rescind the speaker changes and remove the cap on speakers and restore the three-minute speaking time.

Organizations that are supporting this petition:

Philadelphia Student Union, Asian Americans United, UrbEd Advocates, VietLead, Philadelphia Home and School Council, PhillySUN, Parents United for Public Education, Juntos, Caucus of Working Educators, Racial Justice Organizing Committee, Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools, Movement Alliance Project, Philly Participatory Research Collective, Philadelphia Jobs with Justice, Neighborhood Networks, Resource Generation Philly Chapter, 215 People's Alliance, Penn Student Power, POWER, PA Debt Collective, Reclaim Philadelphia, Toxic Free Philly, LILAC, PhillyDSA

To: Philadelphia Board of Education
From: [Your Name]

Dear President Wilkerson and Fellow Board members,

I am writing to ask that you rescind the changes made to the speaker policy. Please remove the speaker cap and restore the speaking time to 3 minutes. In light of increasing public pressure, it is obvious this is a decision that has negatively and deeply affected stakeholders. It could be viewed as a level of your commitment to all members of school communities to respectfully reverse this decision and close the door on this divisive choice. Thank you for considering this request.