May 8, 2014 – PHILADELPHIA — Students, Faith Leaders, Parents to Stage ‘Mock Funeral’ in Reaction to Projected School Budget Deficit, Cuts
Groups Say Additional Cuts Signify End of Philadelphia’s and Pennsylvania’s Future
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Beth Patel, Philadelphia Student Union, 916-806-4004, firstname.lastname@example.org (mailto:email@example.com)
Cecily Harwitt, POWER, 818-631-3454, firstname.lastname@example.org (mailto:email@example.com)
DATE: Friday, May 9th at 4:00pm
On Friday, May 9th, at 4:00pm, hundreds of members of the faith-based organization POWER, will join hundreds of students from three youth-led organizations – the Philadelphia Student Union, Youth United for Change, and Boat People S.O.S. – to conduct a “funeral” for the future of public education in Philadelphia and the whole of Pennsylvania.
The mock funeral will start at 4pm at Philadelphia City Hall and will be followed by a procession down Broad Street to the Bellevue Building at 200 South Broad Street – the location of Governor Corbett’s office. Faith leaders, students and parents will eulogize the future of Philadelphia’s young people that will come to pass if city and state leaders don’t commit themselves to close the budget gap for the fall – and to a full, fair, funding formula for public education as a permanent solution.
The funeral is in response to the recently announced projected $400M budget deficit for the Philadelphia School District for the 2014-15 academic year, a deficit that would result in 1,000 additional staff lay-offs, more than 40 students in a classroom and buildings that can hardly be called schools anymore
Sheila Armstrong, a parent leader with POWER and mother of two public school students, said that “the recent announcement by the Superintendent and the SRC Chair of a $400M deficit is an outrageous reminder that that our public officials have skirted their responsibility to children for too long.
Othella Stanback, a member of the Philadelphia Student Union, one of the event organizers, said “Students are being housed in buildings that are more like warehouses for young people than schools. We know that they are taking away our futures by doing this and so it’s time to rise up and fight back.”
Students are worried that additional cuts will fuel a self-fulfilling prophecy of poorly performing schools and inability to learn and graduate on time. “With less academic help – because of fewer teachers and counselors — students cannot get the one on one quality time we need in order to learn and succeed,” said Katherine Garcia, a 9th grade student at Edison High School, Youth United for Change member and participant in the mock funeral.
Nancy Nguyen, a leader with the Boat People SOS organization and event co-organizer said: “these additional cuts in public school education are a travesty. We’re talking about refugee and immigrant students who have come to Philadelphia to escape violence in their home countries, only to face violence here in a different way. All of our students, our teachers, our nurses, deserve fully funded schools. What kind of future is Philadelphia preparing us for?”
The four organizations want to emphasize that the school funding issue is not merely confined to Philadelphia and thus purely local solutions are inadequate. Indeed, a recent state-commissioned survey found that 94% of Pennsylvania school districts lack the necessary funding to provide an adequate education to students. Pennsylvania is only one of three states without a fair, predictable education funding formula. Further, school districts with disproportionately poor student bodies have $1,800 less per pupil than they need to provide an adequate education, on average. Large districts like Philadelphia are short more than $5,000 per pupil.
To help make education funding a priority in 2014 state-wide elections, POWER and other organizations are contacting and mobilizing thousands of voters who care about public schools, urging them to vote in the gubernatorial primary election this month and in the general election in November.
“State-level political leaders will soon begin to hear from more voters that school funding inequities will no longer stand in Pennsylvania,” said Bishop Dwayne Royster, Executive Director of POWER.