February 19, 2015

Lindsey M. Williams, Esq.
Director of Communications
Office: 412-431-5900
Cell: 412-443-0226

PITTSBURGH — On Thursday, February 19th, Mayor Peduto’s Education Task Force issued its report of policy recommendations to strengthen the Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS) and surrounding communities. The Task Force recommends collaboration in five areas: public safety, out-of-school time programing, community schools, school funding and marketing Pittsburgh’s excellent public school options.

Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers (PFT400) President Nina Esposito-Visgitis issued the following statement:

PFT400 has always supported reducing and eliminating dangers in zones immediately surrounding schools and providing safe routes for children to get to school and out-of-school time programs. In fact, it is vital that we work together to make our communities safer as a whole. Our children deserve to feel safe and secure wherever they are. We agree with the Task Force that the City and the District share the responsibility and challenge of eliminating the school to prison pipeline and that better communication is needed to improve youth-police relations.

Educators know that out-of-school time learning supports the work done in the classroom and helps better prepare students to graduate and for life after graduation. We agree with the Task Force that strong collaboration between the City and the District is the only way to ensure an equitable distribution of high-quality out-of-school opportunities.

PFT400 believes that the value of community schools is well established. We should no longer be talking about if we should invest in community schools – we should be working on the plans for how we roll out community schools over the next few years. Community schools cannot be successful without the cooperation of the City and the District. That cooperation begins with working together to ensure that public education is adequately, equitably, predictably and accountably funded.

We support the Task Force’s recommendation that the City become an equal partner with the District in promoting the Pittsburgh Promise and the strength of our schools.

The Task Force suggests that charter schools should be included in future discussions regarding marketing. The PFT400’s position is that if charter schools are included, they should also be held to the same academic and fiscal standards of the Pittsburgh Public Schools. Charter schools are currently exempt from many state educational mandates, including that up to 25% of charter school teachers do not have to be certified and charter schools do not have to comply with Act 82 requirements on teacher evaluations. Private boards, as opposed to publicly elected school boards, run charter schools, so charters are not as accountable to parents and the community. Charter schools also lack the financial oversight that is built into public schools. A study by the Center for Popular Democracy found that charter school officials have defrauded at least $30 million intended for Pennsylvania school children since 1997. If Pittsburgh tax dollars are spent in charter schools, then charter schools must be held to the same standards as our Pittsburgh Public Schools.

PFT400 wholeheartedly agrees that the Task Force should continue to meet and facilitate collaboration between the City and the District. The more we work together to tackle these tough issues facing our schools, the better.

The Mayor’s Education Task Force was comprised of twenty-one (21) members of the education community including, PFT 400 President Nina Esposito-Visgitis, Derek Lon and Kim Flurry PPS teachers and Hawa Mganga and Stephen O’Brion current PPS students.