I was once a proud graduate of the Philadelphia Public School system until I visited my alma mater, Overbrook High School. I was saddened by the educational environment that teachers and students deal with on a daily basis. I could not believe art and sports programs had been cut. Teachers are now expected to do more than teach, and as a result, students’ education suffers. How can we expect to develop critical thinkers in this type of environment?
Overbook High School isn’t alone. According to the 2015 National Forum on Education Statistics report, Pennsylvania has the widest funding gap between wealthy and poor school districts of any state in the country. Per pupil spending in PA’s poorest districts is 33 percent less than in PA’s wealthiest districts.
The absence of a funding formula, combined with state funding cuts in recent years, hits our students hard. According to a recent PASA-PASBO report, since 2010-11, 93 percent of school districts reduced staff, 50 percent furloughed teachers or other staff, 74 percent cut or reduced at least one academic program 57 percent increased class size.
I knew there was no way I could raise my children in Philadelphia without depending on private schools, so off to the suburbs we went. While I admit suburban living affords us resources that the city does not, it is not as great as I expected. Classes are overcrowded, and teachers don’t always have the resources they need. When you question the teachers or administration, “lack of funding” is the phrase you always hear as answers.
The lack of a Basic Education Funding formula affects everyone. Pennsylvania is one of three states without a formula. I have joined the Campaign for Fair Education, because I believe that children have a right to quality education no matter where they live. I invite you to join me, and get involved with the Campaign for Fair Education. The mission is to ensure that Pennsylvania adopts and maintains an adequate and equitable system of funding public education by 2016. Every public school must have the resources necessary to enable every child to meet state academic standards, be prepared for postsecondary success, and become productive, knowledgeable, and engaged adults.
Part of this campaign involved me interviewing my son. He was excited when I told him about that his voice would be heard. I was not surprised when he discussed recess as what he missed most in transitioning into middle school. In my district, children start middle school in 5th grade, and recess is eliminated from their schedule in place of sitting down for 90-minute blocks of classes. Despite having gym, my son realizes that it is not enough and I agree. Kids need an opportunity to burn that bridled energy. I was told that the budget doesn't allow for a monitor to be with them while outside.
Together we can build a nation of informed and responsible citizens.
Disclosure: I’m teaming up with the Campaign for Fair Education Funding to speak out for students across Pennsylvania. Although I am receiving some form of compensation, all opinions remain my own. #FairFundingPA