Michelle Rhee has started her three-city “teacher town hall” meetings, where she will meet with teachers.

She is accompanied by George Parker, former head of the Washington, D.C., teachers union, who now works for Rhee’s StudentsFirst, and by Steve Perry, the former education commentator at CNN who runs a no-excuses magnet school in Connecticut.

She held her first town hall in Los Angeles. Apparently it went smoothly.

But one student rose to disagree with Rhee. Her name is Hannah Nguyen. She explained why she no longer believes in Rhee’s definition of “reform.”

As it happens, Rhee’s schedule and mine will almost coincide in Philadelphia. She speaks there on September 16, I will be speaking at the Philadelphia Free Library on September 17.

Philadelphia’s public schools are in crisis. They have been under state control since 2001. Last spring, the schools laid off 20% of  staff.

I hope that when Rhee is in Philadelphia, she will call on Governor Corbett to restore the massive budget cuts that have crippled the public schools in Philadelphia.

Corbett cut the public schools of the state by $1 billion, which fell especially hard on Philadelphia.

Parent activist Helen Gym writes this:

Dear Friends:
Thanks so much for all your support in publicizing Philadelphia’s appalling journey to the start of school on Monday. I’m hoping you might share the latest information to come out of the District:
  • Massive overcrowding, including reports of 48 students in a class (in multiple classrooms across the district)!
  • Re-institution of over 100 split grade classes, despite the fact this practice was eliminated as policy;
  • No specific or public safety plans for the movement of 7,000-8,000 students across the district as a result of 24 school closings;
  • No full-time guidance counselors in 60% of all schools in the district, including half of all high schools
  • Only one guidance counselor for schools between 600-3,000 students
  • One secretary per school (Northeast High School has 3,000 students-your call will be answered in the order in which it was received)
  • Roving 16-member counselor team serving an average ratio  of 1 to 3,000 students to handle special education emergencies only
  • No assistant principals unless a school has at least 850 students
  • One nurse per 1500 students
  • Zero full time librarians
The situation is impossible to imagine until you look at the cold-blooded comments of the District spokesperson in response to the outrage of overcrowding. His response is that 30% of the District population moves annually.
“This is particularly a difficult financial situation we’re in, and we want to make sure we wait and see how many students are in a classroom before we hire any more teachers.” 
Parents in Philadelphia refuse to enter the school year with this mindset. We’re organizing to get complaints filed with the Dept. of Education. We are angry and upset yes, but we are also going to be empowered and defiant and do everything possible to set things straight for our children.
Thanks for helping post and share our piece: Back to School: Its so much worse than you think.

Helen Gym
Parents United for Public Education

Parents United for Public Education is an all-volunteer collective of public school parents working to put schools and classrooms first in budgets and budget priorities.