By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia’s teachers’ union got some national help today to make their argument that schools can improve without the wholesale closings and charter takeovers that have been proposed.

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American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten toured a neighborhood school in South Philadelphia to help make the point.

Saying “I’m Randi, nice to see you,” Weingarten toured the Andrew Jackson School, which has undergone a transformation in the last two years under a new principal, Lisa Kaplan.

As she proudly showed off the art room, the music room, and the full-day kindergarten, Kaplan said, “Public schools get nothing but a bad rap, which is so painful to me because such wonderful things happen in public schools.  And not just here — in a lot of other, wonderful schools in the City of Philadelphia.”

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Weingarten didn’t need to be convinced.  She’d like to spread the word, at least as far as City Hall and Harrisburg, where policymakers are considering replacing the School District of Philadelphia with what they’re calling a “portfolio” approach but which Weingarten calls “balkanization.”

“It is about having the public transparency of a public system,” Weingarten tells KYW Newsradio, “and about having a public and shared responsibility.  And that’s what you have when you have a public system instead of a balkanized system.”
The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers is working on an alternative to the “portfolio” plan.

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