The following open letter, signed by about 600 Philadelphia public school parents and taxpayers, was sent to Pennsylvania state legislators over the weekend and posted on the Facebook page of the organization Imagine a School.
We urge you to VOTE YES on ANY measures for EMERGENCY funding to school districts in Pennsylvania, including the School District of Philadelphia, for FY 2013-14.
We realize that you may not be familiar personally with Philadelphia -- our city, our schools, and our children -- and that you may have been exposed to negative and sensationalized media stories and to commentators who describe our city as a "rat hole" and a "cesspool." The reality is that we work, pay taxes and support our children -- just as families do in your home districts. We have chosen to invest our families' futures in the State of Pennsylvania and in a city that we love, and to send our children to public schools that we know firsthand to be great.
We ask you to consider our schools and our children as WE know them. We are parents with skin in the game.
Our magnet high schools graduate nearly every student, and almost every graduate attends a post-secondary school. This year, Central High School's graduating class attracted tens of millions of dollars in college scholarships and $230K in alumni awards. But you will not hear about CHS, or our other excellent schools like Masterman HS, Girls High, or CAPA, our performing arts high school, on the news.
Yes, our children face neighborhood challenges of poverty, discrimination and violence -- and still many succeed, because our schools and our community help them to succeed. But the state's proposed budget will eliminate from schools the very supports that help children overcome these difficulties -- reading, math and language help, music, sports, art, and guidance counselors. How will first-generation students realize their dreams of attending college with no school activities and zero counselors to assist their applications?
The reality we know as parents is that our schools and families have risen mightily to the challenges, and our children's performance has been rising over the past few years. But the proposed state budget will ERASE all of our hard-won progress in the blink of an eye.
For example, in West Philadelphia, Powel Elementary, a recently high-performing school of 216 students, will lose 12 teachers and its ESOL teacher, all support staff, learning intervention and gifted support, all extra-curricular activities, and even funds for books and supplies. Class sizes will balloon past our worst previous levels. Many elementary schools that had been succeeding despite neighborhood poverty will be forced this September -- along with the children enrolled in them -- into conditions that will induce failure.
After working hard as families and as a community, and AS PENNSYLVANIA TAXPAYERS, WE ARE DEVASTATED. We entrusted our families' futures to Pennsylvania, and its legislators are about to fail that trust, to set innocent children up to fail. WHY? We ask you to do the same for our children that you would do for your own -- provide resources for safe, supportive learning environments for talented children who desperately want to learn, and to succeed.
Long-term education reform is in the works, but children cannot wait -- they will walk into inadequate and unsafe schools in TEN WEEKS. Children who are learning to read and to count, who are dreaming of college, are unaware of political rhetoric or ideology. OUR CHILDREN ARE PENNSYLVANIA'S CHILDREN. They deserve the BIPARTISAN SUPPORT OF ALL THOSE CHARGED WITH UPHOLDING EVERY CHILD'S RIGHT TO AN ADEQUATE EDUCATION. And they need it now.
We ask all elected senators and representatives to vote YES on ANY AVAILABLE EMERGENCY MEASURES TO FUND OUR STATE'S SCHOOLS -- and on cigarette tax enabling legislation so that we as Philadelphians have the right to tax ourselves on behalf of our own children. And as state taxpayers we ask that you delay planned corporate tax cuts in favor of children.
IN SUM, WE ASK THAT YOU ACT AS A FAMILY MIGHT, TO DO ALL IN YOUR POWER TO DIG DEEP FOR EMERGENCY EDUCATION FUNDING THAT PLACES THE IMMEDIATE NEEDS OF ALL OF OUR STATE'S CHILDREN BEFORE THOSE OF ITS ADULTS.
We thank you for your consideration.