Report says Pittsburgh schools should be the heart of the community

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Great Public Schools-Pittsburgh today released its vision for Pittsburgh Public Schools, calling for schools to become centers of the community and provide full programs, including art and music.

The report comes on the heels of the district's "Whole Child, Whole Community" report, which was released in December and came out of a $2.4 million envisioning process.

The "Whole Child" report is intended to address both financial and academic challenges. The district expects to run out of money in 2016 unless it changes course.

The founding members of GPS are Action United, One Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network, Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, SEIU Healthcare PA and Yinzercation.

The GPS report, which it calls a "community-based plan," favors turning the schools into community schools that make them the heart of the community and provide education as well as other services. The idea of community schools came up during the envisioning process but was not part of the final report.

The GPS report calls for "re-imagining our schools at the center of our communities," with schools that meet "multiple student and community needs," serve as social and cultural centers, collaborate with communities and "protect schools as valued public assets."

It wants to see full art, music, science, history and world language programs as well as a full-time librarian in every school, a full athletic program and fewer high-stakes tests.

It seeks smaller class sizes, tutoring programs, provisions for special education students and differentiated learning, and a "high-quality well-supported teacher in every classroom."

It also calls for expanded early childhood education.

To improve school climate, it recommends daily recess, a nurse in every school every day, "authentic parent engagement," bullying prevention and "fair and nondiscriminatory disciplinary policies."

Throughout the district, class sizes have been growing as the district battles its budget deficit. All schools have art, music and a librarian, but typically only one day a week for each.

The report suggests moving beyond the question of how to cut the budget.

"Instead we must ask, 'How can we fund the schools our students deserve?' We must expand our way of thinking, reframe the problem and come at public education as a community committed to finding the resources our students need to succeed in school and in life," the report states.

It suggests closing tax loopholes, putting a severance tax on Marcellus Shale extraction and other measures.

 


Education writer Eleanor Chute: echute@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1955.

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