A fifth-grade class from South Philly researched and wrote a speech that they delivered to City Council about school funding on Wednesday. “We know what we are talking about,” they said.
On Wednesday, May 18, Joanna Bottaro’s fifth grade class from McCall Elementary School spoke to Philadelphia City Council about school funding at the invitation of Councilwoman Helen Gym. The students chose the topic after examining several important issues in their community, deeming funding the most important. The research and resulting speech were part of an ongoing project supported through Need in Deed, a youth-oriented civic engagement nonprofit.
The speech in its entirety is below.
Good morning, we are a 5th grade class from McCall Elementary School, a Philadelphia public school located at 7th and Spruce Streets. We are here with our class today to talk about school funding, an issue we have been researching since we chose this topic in December. Of all the issues that affect our city, we chose school funding because we feel our schools are not being given the money we need to ensure that we have a great education.
It took us many steps before we got here today. First, at the very beginning, we had a big debate where we chose which topic we would research. And we debated about the various topics. Afterwards, Principal Rock came into our class as a community partner and taught us about Title I funding. Then we did individual research, PowerPoints on school funding, and PowerPoints about Helen Gym.
Councilwoman Helen Gym came in and taught us about what she does for our city. In addition, Susan Gobreski came in and taught us about her job too. Then we started working on poems about school funding. We made a movie […], we wrote speeches, and created surveys. We even went to a walk-in at our school and gave speeches alongside Councilman [Allan] Domb and Sen. [Larry] Farnese. Now we are here!
Some things we learned about money given for education is that the city contributes around 49 percent, the state contributes around 45 percent, and the federal government contributes around 6 percent.
We know our school, McCall Elementary, is very fortunate to have so many amazing opportunities, grants, programs, volunteers, as well as an active home and school program that other schools may not have, but we also are missing necessities that we need.
Our building has a lot of damage. We have broken toilets, damaged sinks, and cracked ceilings all over the school. These are all problems that might be easy to fix with a little bit of money, but if they are not fixed, they will become more expensive and harder to fix.
We also have crowded classrooms and not enough supplies for everyone. Right now we have 35 students in classrooms, which is over the limit of the number of kids who are supposed to be in each classroom. We even read an article that said that research has been done, and it was found that class size matters in how much students learn. This is because of lack of funding. Having large classes makes it hard for us to learn and to get individual time with the teacher. With 35 students in a class, it can also get really loud. Without time with the teacher, we don’t always have the opportunity to ask all the questions we have and to understand the material we are being taught.
Throughout our school, many of the books are broken, including our social studies textbook. This makes us not want to read them because the books fall apart in our hands.
These problems are caused by unfair funding, and we are here to inform people that we need fair funding for education to succeed in life and to make the world a better place.
As a class, we wrote, distributed and analyzed, three surveys for our community.We gave one to students, one to all of our parents, and one to the staff. We asked questions about classroom size, lunch quality, supplies, materials, and building conditions. We found that children felt they would be better students if there were less children in each class. Most students and staff did not like school lunches.
We have written research papers comparing Philadelphia public schools to suburban schools [and] charter schools as well as papers on the various leaders in our community that help decide how much money we have to spend on our schools. We know what we are talking about.
We feel that if we don’t have a proper education, we may grow up to be the people living on the street or working in a factory with little pay. If we have more opportunities, we could be the richest people in the world or the smartest people in the world and even cure cancer or create a world where no sickness is known. We don’t want to be the people in the streets! Philadelphia doesn’t want to be known as a city filled with homeless people! How do you think we’re supposed to learn if we can’t get proper funding for supplies?
We would like to thank everyone who helped us or came to our class for our Need in Deed topic. Thank you to our wonderful teacher, Ms. Bottaro, and thanks to our three student teachers, Ms. Courtney Mulgrew, Ms. Shannon Fuhr, and Ms. Amber; Ms. Pam Prell from Need in Deed; Principal Rock; Councilwoman Helen Gym; Ms. Susan Gobreski; and especially you, because you are taking the time to listen to our research and speech. Thank you for letting us come to City Council.
We know that the education we get is what leads us to our future. We know we are not the the only school district that is suffering because of poor school funding. All public schools in Pennsylvania are struggling to get money from the state. If we don’t get more funding from the government, we will miss so many opportunities. Please help us. Our generation is the future of Philadelphia.