Study Says Philadelphians Think Poorly of its Public Schools

Philadelphia residents have record-low opinion of their financially troubled public school system, with only 18 percent saying the district is good or excellent.

That's according to a poll released Tuesday by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

"It's rough for parents. We do feel abandoned and neglected. We feel our kids are pawns in the political chess game," said Leslie Tyler, co-president of the Meredith School Home and School Association.

"Everyone is confused about who's at fault, meanwhile our children are left there to suffer."

This year, 78 percent of the city's citizens rate the public schools as "only fair or poor." This is the worst rating since the Pew Charitable Trusts began polling residents five years ago. 

The latest poll was taken this summer as the district coped with massive layoffs and big budget cuts. It found people equally blamed city and state officials for the funding crisis.

The district's financial woes unraveled in a public process, which included 3,800 school district employee layoffs and the threat of school starting late. 

"It is not surprising that individuals have a more negative opinion of the public education system in Philadelphia," said Fernando Gallard, Philadelphia School District spokesman. 

"The survey results underline the work we must accomplish."

The battle to appropriately fund Philadelphia schools continues. Last month, Mayor Michael Nutter promised $50 million, resulting in the rehiring of approximately 1,650 staff members. Nutter recently asked citizens to donate money for school supplies.  

Pennsylvania taxpayers are investing more than $1.33 billion into the Philadelphia School District this year, according to Tim Eller, spokesman for Governor Tom Corbett.

"Governor Corbett’s main focus is to ensure that students in the district have access to the best education possible, and this can be achieved by all sides working together to reach a solution," said Eller.

Corbett and Nutter have both stated publicly that they are open to working toward a tangible solution to stabilize the school district's woes. 

"Elected officials are failing to do their responsibility. The city needs to step up to regain the confidence of Philadelphians," said Helen Gym, founder of Parents United.

The barrage of school closings in the last year have resulted in the the public's desire for more quality schools, according to Gym.

Because of the troubles, 48 percent say they expect families to seek other educational options within the city. Twenty-three percent expect families to start leaving.

But the poll also found that jobs and crime are more often cited as reasons for leaving the city.

Researchers polled 1,605 city residents 18 years and older between July 23 and August 13, 2013 by telephone. The residents surveyed represent a random citywide sample.

When the survey was first conducted five years ago, 30 percent of respondents called the schools good or excellent.

"As a parent in the school district, you don't have a whole lot of confidence in them right now," said Tyler. 

Contact Sarah Glover at 610-668-5580, or follow @skyphoto on Twitter.

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