Brett Mandel says education shouldn't be the next mayor's main concern. He's wrong - Technical.ly Philly

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Feb. 26, 2015 11:16 am

Brett Mandel says education shouldn’t be the next mayor’s main concern. He’s wrong

While he's right to encourage a discussion of a broad swath of issues, he's wrong to completely discount the mayor's impact on public education.
A rally outside School District headquarters , March 2013.

A rally outside School District headquarters , March 2013.

(Photo by Flickr user Peoples World, used under a Creative Commons license)

This is a guest post by Megan Rosenbach, the founder of Neighbors Investing in Childs Elementary (NICE). It is adapted with permission from the Progressive Philly Rising blog.

Brett Mandel, a former Democratic candidate for City Controller, is trying to convince us that education shouldn’t be the issue in Philadelphia’s mayoral race.

He says dialogue around the race should focus instead on issues the mayor can control, like the police, trash collection, streets, finances and taxes.

Of course Philadelphians deserve a cleaner city, a tax structure that works, safer streets, better recreational facilities and so on. I cannot and would not argue with that. I, however, want to push back and ask how our next mayor can make sure that every single facet of city government is contributing, in some way large or small, to improving the educational outcomes for Philadelphia children.

Citizens deserve a mayor who brings new vision and tenacity to the the work of improving education in Philadelphia.

Many city agencies are already working to improve public education for children, and I encourage that work to continue. How can the Water Department continue to improve schoolyards through its green initiatives? How can the Streets Department make sure there are safer routes to school? How can the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy bolster arts education within schools? How can we ensure children receive good nutrition, access to summer programs and a healthy infancy?

For all these reasons and more, I assert that education is the issue of this mayoral election. That’s why Neighbors Investing in Childs Elementary (NICE), Friends of Jackson and Newbold Neighbors Education Committee, with the support of each partner in the South Philly Schools Coalition, are hosting a Mayoral Candidates Education Forum on March 24.

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This honest discussion with candidates will explore how the next mayor of Philadelphia can improve education in Philly, acknowledging the office’s inherent limitations, while offering innovative solutions that use collaboration across city agencies to support our education system.

But instead of engaging in a conversation about how various city agencies can actually contribute to public education — albeit tangentially in some cases, Mandel used his blog post to harp on the lack of control the mayor has on education. “We are told again and again that education will be the issue of the 2015 mayoral campaign,” he blogged. “Frankly, if education is what mayoral candidates are going to talk about, they might as well offer their Philadelphia weather platform.”

Moreover, we call on candidates to be champions for public education because the mayor holds political power that can be instrumental in ushering in positive changes for Philadelphia schools.

The mayor appoints two members to the School Reform Commission. The mayor could wield political influence on public education with the state legislators or spearhead a diverse statewide coalition that advocates for a fair funding formula. I want a mayor who sees the office’s abilities to improve our schools, not just its limitations.

Now is a critical time for Philly’s education system. Philly is growing, especially in our Millennial population. And most Millennials are bound to have babies, if they don’t already. Families who want to stay in the city, but could move elsewhere, are partnering with long time Philly residents who have been struggling for improved education for their children for far too long. Middle-class parents are putting their privilege and power to work to support our schools and ensure that they are serving all children.

There are over 20 “friends of” neighborhood schools groups across the city and they are gathering on March 14 to learn from one another and further coalesce their movement. These folks, myself included, believe in our public schools and are working to ensure that they receive the resources, funding, attention, and love that they deserve.

Citizens deserve a mayor who brings new vision and tenacity to the the work of improving education in Philadelphia. The mayor is the most prominent political leader of this great city and education is the most important thing to consider when leading Philadelphia into its next era.

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