Target: Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett
Goal: Adequately fund public education to ensure students are educated, safe, and healthy
The situation in Philadelphia public schools is dire and getting worse. Education budget cuts in Pennsylvania have been some of the most extensive in the nation and the hardest hit city has been Philadelphia. The city has seen mass layoffs, throngs of closed schools, crowded classrooms and poor health conditions across its public schools. Maybe the saddest problem of all is that charter schools are feeling none of the same strain.
Supposed reforms implemented by the School Reform Commission seem only to make matters worse. In 2013, the education budget did not cover arts or music programs, counselors or paper. Schools have reported infestations, unhygienic conditions, and an alarming lack of health services. Many Philadelphia public schools don’t have full-time nurses, leaving untrained staff to fill in. John Tulenko reporting for PBS found a high school with so little funding that each student only received roughly $5 in supplies for the entire year with no funding for books whatsoever. The teachers’ union contract caps classroom sizes at 33 students per room, but Tulenko found a ninth grade biology class with 62 students. Many schools have been without librarians for years and many teachers pay out of pocket for supplies for students.
As public schools closed, charter schools opened, taking with them huge portions of the strained education budget. It is estimated that roughly $7,000 of the education budget follows every charter school student who transfers from a public school. While this is good for charter schools and their students, not all children can attend charter schools, leaving public schools desperately underfunded. The School Reform Commission had also denied charter school applications after 2007, citing a lack of funding, further limiting options for students. Under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002, any school considered to be failing will be designated a charter school and students of underperforming public schools have the option to transfer to charter schools. At least, that’s how the system is meant to work when there is enough funding for new charter schools.
Putting the onus on teachers and not the decimated budget, the School Reform Commission announced in October 2014 that it would be ending a contract with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, and will require teachers to contribute 13 percent of any income over $55,000 to the teachers’ health fund, an effective declaration of war against the union. The commission will also increase class size caps to 50 students per classroom.
Add your name to the fight for adequate education funding in Philadelphia to keep our kids safe and, hopefully, educated.
Dear Governor Corbett,
The No Child Left Behind Act stipulates that students in underperforming public schools may transfer to charter schools and that failing public schools will be designated charter schools. When there isn’t enough funding, however, many children are left behind in public schools without full-time nurses, without supplies, without books, counselors, or arts and music programs. Children of the public schools left behind are taught in crowded, unhygienic classrooms with supplies purchased by poorly paid teachers.
Education budgets across the nation are strained, but Pennsylvania and, in particular, Philadelphia, is collapsing under that strain. The School Reform Commission continues to make decisions that do not benefit students, teachers, or the public schools they have no choice but to attend.
I urge you to allocate more funds to education in Philadelphia and to ensure that where public schools do still exist, their students have a chance at competing with those in charter schools.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Smallbones via Wikimedia Commons