Not the same public schools I went to
By the Notebook on Aug 28, 2013 11:40 AM
by Kia Hinton
I live in the same house in Southwest Philadelphia that I grew up in. My kids go to the same public schools I did. But even though the buildings are unchanged and some of the teachers I had are still around, going to public school in Philadelphia is just not the same as it was when I was a kid.
It’s never been as bad as it is now. Four thousand teachers and school support staff were laid off. Twenty-four schools have been closed. The classes will be packed to capacity. There will be nearly no art, music, or extracurricular activities. Our kids will get barely any one-on-one attention. The list goes on and on.
My neighbors are panicking. Some are thinking about home-schooling their kids. Others are scrambling to gather enough money to send their kids to private school. This isn’t what they’d choose. They want their kids to go to high-quality neighborhood schools. This is a last resort.
Last resorts have become all too common in our starving school district. Mayor Nutter’s 11th-hour announcement that he would borrow $50 million to get the school doors open on time is the latest example. And the thing about it is, we don’t need to be in this “last resort” place.
Big businesses in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania are getting the break our kids need. The City Council tried to pass an increase in the corporate Use and Occupancy tax that would have raised $30 million for our schools. That failed. Council did pass a $2-per-pack cigarette tax that would have generated $74 million for our schools. But the state wouldn’t enact it.
It’s even worse in Harrisburg. Gov. Corbett cut $1 billion from public schools statewide. He’s only given $2 million to make up for the $304 million budget shortfall in the School District of Philadelphia, and he’s holding $45 million more hostage until teachers make concessions he says are acceptable. Meanwhile, he’s putting $400 million toward a new prison and giving major tax breaks to corporations.
So I get why other parents are ready to run for the hills. They’re worried, and I’m worried too. I’m worried that my kids won’t be as safe at school with fewer adults watching out for them. I’m worried that teachers will be stretched so thin that the high-quality education they’ve always provided will be impossible. I’m worried that we are going to relive this “will the schools open or won’t they?” nightmare again and again until the people we elected figure out some long-term solutions.
But even with those worries, I’m determined to stick with it. I’ve always wanted my kids to go to the same great public schools I went to. And that’s a vision I’m not giving up on.
From all I’ve read and heard, it seems like the ball is in Mayor Nutter’s court. Gov. Corbett has proven that he has no interest in standing with me, my kids, and the teachers we love. So it’s frustrating to me that Mayor Nutter keeps cozying up to him.
Mayor Nutter, I’m asking you -- pleading with you, really -- to demand fair funding for Philadelphia schools. We can’t keep getting by with the bare minimum. My kids and all Philadelphia’s children deserve more.
Kia Hinton is a Philadelphia parent and a member of ACTION United, a community activist group.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author.