Target: Chairman of the Pennsylvania School Reform Commission Pedro Ramos and the Pennsylvania Congress
Goal: Condemn Pennsylvania’s decision to close twenty-three public schools and approve drastic budget cuts while funding the construction of a new prison.
The Pennsylvania School Reform Commission recently voted to close 23 public schools, citing the $304 million debt and lack of proper funds to be able to run the schools. At the same time, the state is spending $400 million on the construction of a penitentiary and voting in favor of tax breaks for corporations.
The School Reform Commission of Philadelphia voted to pass a new budget that has been referred to as the “doomsday” budget for education in the city. The budget will not provide for new books and paper, and will halt funds for many new staff such as counselors, assistant principals, and librarians. Arts and sports programs have also lost funding. The lack of monetary support will lead to the loss of over 3,000 jobs in schools that already face large classroom sizes. Along with the doomsday budget has come the call to close 23 public schools in Philadelphia. The closing of these schools is specifically problematic because of the racial and socioeconomic backgrounds of the students attending these schools. According to journalist Rania Khalek, 58% of the population of students in Philadelphia are black, but black students constitute 81% of the students affected by the school closing. Of those affected students, 93% are considered to be from low-income families.
However, while the state indicates that there is no money for education, the Department of Corrections is spending $400 million to construct State Correctional Institutions Phoenix I and II, a new penitentiary. According to the Sentencing Project, racial and ethnic minorities make up more than 60% of the prison population, with much of this high percentage credited to the emphasis on the “war on drugs,” through which individuals of color are at a higher likelihood to be imprisoned. Individuals of color or lower socioeconomic status are then targeted not only in the closing of schools in Philadelphia, but also by the increase in space in the state prisons, as individuals with limited access to education are more likely to be imprisoned.
Additionally, although the state claims to be lacking the funds to continue to support the education system as it stands in Philadelphia, the state’s House of Representatives recently passed a bill to cut business taxes in a measure that would cost the state $600 million to $800 million a year but would lower the corporate net income tax rate by 3 percent over ten years. This shows that the state has money that it is willing to spend but that it’s going to support corporations and not the youth of Philadelphia.
Sign the petition below to show the Pennsylvanian Congress and the Pennsylvania School Reform Commission that the closing of these schools and cutting of educational budgets in favor of bigger prisons and corporate tax breaks will not be condoned, and that educational support must be provided for all youth in Philadelphia.
Dear Chairman of the Pennsylvania School Reform Commission Pedro A. Ramos and the Pennsylvania State Congress,
The attack on the Philadelphia educational system must end. The “doomsday” budget cuts and the closing of 23 public schools will be detrimental to the educational success of many students in Philadelphia. The state of Pennsylvania must take a stand in favor of supporting the youth of Philadelphia.
The first step to success for youth in the United States is access to proper education with supportive faculty, textbooks, and extracurricular programming. The doomsday budget proposal and school closings will eliminate funding for basic school supplies, cut over 3,000 jobs, and terminate arts and athletic programs.
I am asking you to vote against educational budget cuts and instead seek legislation that will foster increased educational support for students who are often underserved in the school system. Your decision to keep schools open and stop the doomsday budget will allow youth in Philadelphia to receive the education they deserve.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Andres Ramirez via DeviantArt