Cut from the team: Philadelphia School District’s funding crisis

I started covering the Philadelphia School District in the winter when I learned a school in my beat was going to be closed. I was on the hunt trying to get some answers and draw up some questions in the community about what was about to happen in West Philadelphia. My hunt was met with a lot of hmms and hauls over long-term district goals and those little uncertainties only fueled my fire for answers. I went from talking to the little guy- to making calls to the district, becoming as friendly as possible with a secretary via email. Everyone knows the most powerful thing you can say to a journalist is nothing, and I believe I made that quite clear.

Eventually I was given neatly packaged answers and asked not to contact school employees, which I ignored (two can play that game PSD). As the spring drew on and summer fast approached, my stories became some of the many that were focused on a monumental break in the school system. Right before the end of the school year, a student was killed in a neighborhood park outside of a high school. He was an innocent victim to what many call gang violence and some call preserving neighborhoods. My tie into this incident and closing schools – violence will inevitably increase. There is a reason why Philadelphia doesn’t have one mega school in Center City. Neighborhood schools are a crucial part of identity and community-ness.

So this is all obvious. But, I want to say I see where the district is coming from and I did want to see their side.

Some schools aren’t full, while others overflow.

It costs a great deal of money to keep a school open – serving food, electricity, security, teachers, afterschool programs.

But here’s my thing – schools are essential. Education is like food. And speaking of food- for some kids this is the only place they can get balanced meals or feel safe in the city. And those are two things on the chopping block?

I was told teachers would keep their jobs and be reassigned to assist increased class sizes – HA, lie – 100s of teachers are being laid-off. But thanks for the email anyway I suppose.

So here we are at the end of the summer – END OF THE SUMMER, 3 MONTHS – and now the Superintendent has said we need $50 million to open the now reduced number of schools in Philadelphia. I can’t even imagine what $50 million looks like but I also can’t imagine what thousands of uneducated Philadelphians looks like.

Parents, children, activists, politicians – anyone with a pulse really – is outraged.

Here’s the kicker, the whole reason for my post:

A church coalition rallied to tell parents to boycott schools until more funding ($180 million) is put toward schools.

I’m speechless. Boycott education? – It’s like adding gasoline to a fire that’s burning down the city.

A little education is better than none at all.

This struggle in Philadelphia is about much more than learning. It’s getting into safety, poverty, class struggles, neighborhood turf, gangs, the future, etc.

You can’t fix these problems under a deadline, or with money, especially when you don’t want to raise taxes.

Where’s Michael Nutter in all this?