HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus (PLBC) chairman, State Rep. Ronald G. Waters, D-Delaware/Phila., said caucus members support Dr. Arlene Ackerman, Superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia, and commend her for her commitment to diversity.
The fearless advocate for children and school reform has been criticized recently for removing Security and Data Technologies Inc. from a $7.5 million, no-bid contract for surveillance cameras, and replacing it with IBS Communications, a minority contractor.
“I am proud and encouraged that Dr. Ackerman is taking on the issue of inclusion, diversity and opportunity in an effort to spread the school district’s contracts among all the communities. IBS is a highly qualified and a highly recommended firm, and Dr. Ackerman should be given the opportunity to defend herself,” Waters said.
“In a school district that is 88 percent children of color, minority participation leaves much to be desired,” Waters added. “Out of all of the businesses that contract with the Philadelphia School District, only 20 percent are women- and minority-owned businesses, and only 10 percent of contractors are people of color. We have to end this practice of economic apartheid.”
“I support extending the opportunity to small and disadvantaged business to acquire state and local government contracts. I believe that these businesses, which are often women and minority owned, are frequently overlooked and need the support and intervention of government officials and those in administrative positions to level the playing field,” said State Rep. Cherelle Parker, D-Phila., a PLBC member.
According to the U.S. Census, Philadelphia is 43.5 percent African-American, 39 percent white, 11 percent Latino and 5.5 Asian. This means that nearly 58 percent of Philadelphia’s citizens are people of color, yet Waters is concerned that their numbers are not reflected among contractors doing business with the city. “The city’s top elected official is a person of color. The chairman of the city’s School Reform Commission is a person of color, as is the District Attorney, the Sheriff, eight of the 17 members of the City Council, 18 legislators representing Philadelphia in the General Assembly, and one of Philadelphia’s four members of Congress. Even the President of the United States is a man of color,” Waters added.
“I am a strong advocate for giving African-Americans and minorities the opportunity to participate in contracts with the School District of Philadelphia and all forms of state-related contracts,” said State Rep. Kenyatta Johnson, D-Phila., a PLBC member.
“How do we encourage our youth to go to school, get an education and invest in their future, when they come to school and see that the contractors, the people working in the school don’t look like the person they see in the mirror?” Waters asked. “The majority of the teachers and people earning income in that building don’t look like them. What kind of signal are we sending when we talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk? Actions speak louder than words, and children want to see results, not just hear what we say. How do we incentivize good, desired behavior when we want them to believe the system is fair, but the reality doesn’t agree?” Waters added.
“I congratulate Superintendent Arlene Ackerman for having the will to end the old boys’ network and stop business as usual,” Waters said. “Far too often, too many of us stand around as spectators. If we want to end crime, promote healthy behavior, and want people to feel that America is a great place to live and raise a family, then we have to do it by way of example.”
“If you want to reduce crime and show kids a bright future, rather than investigate fourth grade reading levels as an indicator of prison growth, you have to show that education is important—not just academics but life experience,” Waters added.