Letter: We demand that Harrisburg and Philadelphia open city schools on time, safely, and with high quality

    Philadelphia schools, and the 150,000 children they serve, have been systematically victimized by politicians at every level of state and city government for far too long. Our city’s young people are watching and have gotten the message loud and clear that they are not a priority.

    We write on behalf of the Home and School Association of Central High School. Central is one of the premier magnet schools of the School District of Philadelphia and one of its largest, educating 2,400 young people from every ZIP code in the city.

    But all the city schools, regardless of their size, history, mission or successes are facing an enormous crisis years in the making, and if the current trajectory is not reversed, the potential to irreparably damage the future of the city. Simply put, the city schools, and the 150,000 children they serve, have been systematically victimized by politicians at every level of state and city government for far too long, and it must stop. Indeed, damage has already been done; our city’s young people are watching and have gotten the message loud and clear that they are not a priority.

    It seems that every year, the school district is forced to come hat in hand to beg for the money it needs just to provide the poorest excuse for an education for most of the district’s students. The events of last week lowered that bar even further. Now we are focusing on finding just enough money for the schools merely to open. Making improvements in city schools has long since dropped from the dialog.

    This cannot continue if Philadelphia has any hope of achieving its potential. Certainly we need to find the money to open the schools, and the political finger-pointing and games concerning where that money comes from must cease immediately. That, however, is not nearly enough. We need to assure long-term, stable funding for the schools from the state (especially) and the city, so instead of focusing on the survival of the school system we can turn our attention to improving the school system.

    The stakes here cannot be overstated. Hundreds of thousands of children are at issue. These children can either be educated to succeed or be left to fail. If we choose the latter by continuing to treat the schools as we have, we will all pay the price. Young families with the option will continue to flee the city, businesses will continue to locate elsewhere when they cannot find educated workers, and the city will be left with a larger population of needy, uneducated adults to support.

    Our calls for fully and fairly funded public schools have not been heeded to date. Today, we do nothing less than demand that our elected officials in Harrisburg and in Philadelphia take any and all steps necessary for all city schools to open on time, safely, and with quality educational and extra-curricular programming. We demand it now. Nothing is more important.

    Lisa Kallas and Emily Adeshigbin are co-presidents of the Central High School Home and School Association.

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