Opening remarks by Rabbi Lauren Grabbelle Herrmann (right) for POWER action with Philadelphia Student Union, Youth United for Change, and Boat People SOS “No Schools, No Future” held on May 9th 2014. The rally was held to signify the death of Pennsylvania’s future without a commitment to public education funding from leaders, and to call for a full, fair funding formula. Pennsylvania is one of just three states without a funding formula – instead, funding is determined by political dealmaking instead of student and classroom needs.
We are gathered here today to mourn for the future of our schools and for our children’s future. We have heard that once again, Philadelphia’s schools are at risk again and if they are not funded, our schools may lose over 1,000 staff members and children will be in classes of over forty students. These austere conditions will leave schools crippled and children’s lives damaged.
As we gather today solemnly, we know that we do not just mourn the spiritual and physical death of our city’s schools. We mourn something much greater and bigger than this
We mourn for the death of hope, the death of dreams – the dream of a child who wants to go to college, to better himself but doesn’t have access to a school counselor or help finding a way to pay for higher education.
We mourn the death of possibility – for the next generation in this great city, who will be the first to say they did not do better than their parents and grandparents; who can no longer use their education to lift them out of poverty and envision a brighter future
We mourn for the death of a promise, an ideal as old as our nation that education is a fundamental right, not a privilege.
And we mourn for the death of Pennsylvania’s future—for if we do not educate the youth of this commonwealth, we certainly have no future.
In life, some deaths come as a relief, for the suffering of a loved one has become too much to bear. Some deaths are a shock, as we might never have seen or anticipated the sudden loss of a beloved. This death is neither a relief nor a shock. This death is nothing short of a tragedy. It’s a tragedy because those who suffer are the most innocent and the most vulnerable. It’s a tragedy because it could have been prevented – it doesn’t have to be this way. It’s a tragedy because it goes against everything we stand for as people and as a society – the idea that every child has the God-given right to learn and to flourish.
As mourners to this tragedy, we come here grieved and saddened. We come here, feeling righteous indignation. Today, we gather together to bear witness to this atrocity, to pay our respects.
But we also gather so that we might turn our anger into motivation, our frustration into determination. We will not rest until the city finds some way to make up the shortfall. We will not rest until the state of Pennsylvania has a fair, full funding formula that enables all school districts across the state to have the resources we need to create good schools and to make this future brighter for the next generation. Today, let us witness, let us listen, let us feel, and let us be moved into action.