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Greg Paulmier
2007 SRC Testimony
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Testimony by Greg Paulmier before the School Reform Commission, January 17, 2007

Thank you Chairman Neville, and members of the School Reform Commission for giving me the opportunity to speak to you today. My name is Greg Paulmier and I'm a member of the Home & School Association and a Henry School parent. I am also a community activist and have been working to build community in my neighborhood for more than two decades.



I am familiar with the challenges that affect the quality of life in our community: issues of housing, business development, recreation centers and parks, employment opportunities, crime, law enforcement and, of course, the schools.



On December 5th, I joined with 250 other Philadelphia public school parents gathered in room #1075 at the School District building on Broad Street for a meeting of the Philadelphia Home & School Association. At this meeting, Home School President Greg Wade introduced City Controller Alan Butkovitz who shared his insight on the School District's impending budget crisis.



A motion was made from the floor, that the Home & School Association support Mr. Butkovitz, who is the chief financial officer of the City, in his request to audit the books of the School District. This motion was seconded and unanimously approved by the parents, to be presented to the School Reform Commission and Paul Vallas.



Until we have transparency in the finances of the School District, we have no hope of holding people accountable for the way the schools are run, and no hope of improving it. The City Controller is chief financial watchdog of the city, elected by the people to audit the books of government operations in the City of Philadelphia. What justification or explanation can the School District give for refusing to let the City Controller see their books? Yesterday in Harrisburg Governor Rendell said: "Citizens have the right to information about what their government is doing. I strongly believe we need a new open records law to ensure that every citizen can engage in the political process and hold their elected officials accountable." The Home & School Association parents supported Mr. Butkovitz as a step toward shedding light on the budget problems of the School District. Transparency with all taxpayer money is a must; why should the school system be exempt?



Schools provide cultural structure and direction to the community through its youth. Schools are community institutions, and they must have the guidance and participation of neighbors and parents to succeed.



How can this happen if the neighbors and parents can't even look at the books and see how their money is being spent? We cannot just talk about putting kids first, let's do it. We must start with accountability, that is, how the taxpayers' money is spent supporting the most important public institutions, the schools. Thank you.

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