School funding won’t save the day, implies Philadelphia NAACP President.
Leaning up against a wall on the 4th floor of City Hall, just steps from City Council chambers, was Mr. Rodney Muhammad, the newly elected president of the Philadelphia NAACP.
Thumbing through papers minutes before a press conference, Mr. Muhammad spoke exclusively to Techbook Online about what he perceives is a one-track fight for Philadelphia schools.
Understanding of Mayor Michael Nutter’s desire to raise money for the cash-strapped school district, Mr. Muhammad said when we allow the argument to be reduced to funding alone, “too many things are being left out of the conversation.”
The main things being left out of the conversation, suggested Mr. Muhammad, are dialogues around background, socialization and curriculum.
“What good is funding if the curriculum isn’t designed to help people meet present-day realities?” he questioned, rhetorically.
And even before a student reaches the classroom to consume an irrelevant and outdated curriculum, they are, more than likely, traveling through poor and vulnerable communities, many residing with, as the minister put it, “dysfunctional families.”
Mr. Muhammad is of the belief that local control of the School District of Philadelphia, anchored with an elected school board that“directs the place of accountability,” will provide officials a greater ability to build schools and neighborhoods that are “condition sensitive.”
Some neighborhoods more than others, said Mr. Muhammad, need treatment. Though he wouldn’t co-sign moving social service providers into the actual school buildings, Mr. Muhammad says they should absolutely be in “areas where they’re greatly needed.”
“Counseling is more needed in at-risk neighborhoods than in many other areas that have all the resources and structures to support child development and cultivation,” he says.
According to the minister – and his well-shuffled notes – Philadelphia is one of three cities left in America that aren’t funding schools based on condition(s).
“A spending formula is bigger than funding, he said, “you can fund schools, but if you have a bad formula for how those funds are distributed, you’re not going to get the outcome you desire.”
The outcome every parent and teacher can agree on is student achievement. And to reach that outcome, many claim they need resources; greater resources and more resources. But Mr. Muhammad said studies have proven that “more resources aren’t translating into student achievement.”
Again, he reiterates that “we should not think funding is everything… it’s not that simple.”
Loosely quoting NAACP’s founder, Mr. W.E.B Du Bois, Mr. Muhammad states:
“It is a mistake to think wealth is a cure for all our social ills.”
Public education in Philadelphia, according to Philadelphia City Councilman, Mr. Curtis Jones – who along with Councilwoman Blackwell joined Mr. Muhammad at the press conference – is more than a social ill, it’s a civil rights issue.
At one point in time schools were separate but equal, said Councilman Jones. Now, in Philadelphia, the schools are “together but unequal,” he added.
“We can’t just fund them,” said Mr. Muhammad, “we just fix them.”
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