Department of Education Responds to Parent Complaints

Tonight... We have a bit of good news for parents complaining about conditions at their children's schools.

Two years ago, education activists urged parents to file formal complaints with the State Department of Education-- against the Philadelphia School District, alleging "deficient curriculum."

Essentially, that the kids weren't getting the education they were entitled to.

More than 800 complaints were lodged. Now, the first responses from the state are back- and it turns out those parents were right.

Robin Roberts' son no longer attends C.W. Henry Elementary School. But she is pleased to know the state Department of Education has confirmed her complaint that henry's gifted program is "ineffective."

"It makes me feel- as a parent- that we were able to stand up for something that we know is not going right in our school."

Roberts was one of hundreds of parents who complained to the state about ineffective or missing gifted programs, art classes, phys. ed, foreign language and writing courses at Philly schools.

It was a novel approach to raising awareness about the impact of funding cuts on the beleaguered school district.

Now,, in a ruling released this month, the Department of Education has determined those curriculum deficiencies do, indeed, exist....and that the district must "submit a corrective action plan."

The Public Interest Law Center, along with education activists, pushed the parents to file the complaints on behalf of their kids.

"They go without art and music, theatre and physical education. There are 40 or more students in the classroom. They may not have access to the four years of language that colleges require. The list goes on."

"If there's a message here today, it's that parents have really led the charge in holding the state and the School District of Philadelphia accountable for resources and classrooms. We'll be relentless and focused in continuing this."

Of course, it's easy for the state department of ed to agree that city school programs are lacking. It's far tougher to bring back those programs in the midst of a money crunch made worse by a six month budget stalemate.

"What do you hope this ruling says to these lawmakers, in terms of what they now have to do?" rr: "get back to work! These schools need funding."

Late this afternoon, the school district released a statement in which it promised to, quote- fully address" the department of education findings.

But the district took the opportunity to blame its curriculum deficiences on budget cuts by the state...and again threatened to close its doors if a new spending plan isn't in place by late January.