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Philadelphia parent group wants a ‘joy audit,’ ‘chief joy officer’ for city schools

A “grassroots” parent group in the City of Brotherly Love wants a “joy-based budget” for the city school district which would fund a “chief joy officer.”

What would the person in this position actually do?

According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, the officer would “oversee extracurricular activities and other departments that focus on the experiences that keep children motivated to come to school.”

The group Lift Every Voice, which works to “advanc[e] racial, economic, and education justice,” claims some city schools don’t have playgrounds or “basic equipment” for recess time, such as jump ropes and basketballs.

As such, kids are getting into trouble.

Lift Every Voice’s Velvet Lewis said “[Kids] don’t know what to do; they’re running around and nobody is saying, ‘Let’s go over there and play football. Let’s do something positive.’”

The group claims a “joy audit” and “chief of joy” isn’t much to ask in a district with a $4 billion budget.

MORE: Philly’s black-led charter schools allege racism, bias by city school district

From the story:

Some City Council members have expressed support; Council member Rue Landau, a public school parent herself, has signed on.

“I love this concept of actually having somebody at the district who is dedicated to making sure we are affirmatively supporting positive and joyous activities,” Landau said. “If kids were really drawn to school because it was feeding their whole selves, not just teaching so they could do well on tests, I think it would have a tremendous effect on the students, their families, and communities throughout the city.”

Councilmember Kendra Brooks, another public school parent and longtime education activist, is also a fan of what she calls “this campaign’s vision for our schools as places of joy, healing, and community.

The pandemic, along with decades of underfunding, have robbed our children of the joy of learning, and I believe Lift Every Voice’s campaign will help us get it back,” Brooks said in a statement.

Philly Superintendent Tony Watlington Sr. said he was “intrigued” by the idea of a “joy” chief, but made no commitment to one.

Over the last few years, the city’s schools have dealt with other advocacy groups such as Juntos, which wants “freedom from criminalization, reinvestment in education, culturally responsive teaching, community control of schools, and schools to be places of healing.”

Last year the Education Law Center put out the report “We Need Supportive Spaces That Celebrate Us: Black Girls Speak Out About Public Schools” which alleges the demographic in city schools is “routinely subjected to racism from fellow students, teachers, and school administrators.”

MORE: Philadelphia schools launch ‘comprehensive initiative’ to end racism

IMAGE: TERPENIE/Shutterstock.com

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