With public schools under attack across the nation, it is inspiring to see just how many organizers (many of them students!) are attending rallies, school board meetings and press conferences to defend of their schools and demand the resources and opportunities every student deserves.
Our allies at the Philadelphia Student Union (PSU) have been featured in several recent media stories. These young organizers are proving to be some of the strongest voices in the movement for educational equity in their city and nationwide.
"Our Schools Are Not For Sale" is a short video chronicling the challenges students, parents and educators encountered this fall when the school year began. Philadelphia schools, wracked by years of budget cuts, opened their doors this year without money for things like basic classroom supplies, textbooks, nurses, assistant principals or other support staff.
PSU member Sharron Snyder, a high school senior, is concerned about navigating the college application process without the help of a college counselor – yet another vital resource many Philly students are going without. "Right now, it's just going to be teachers and cops," she said.
The film also highlights the many rallies and student walkouts that advocates and organizers have lead in recent months to protest funding cuts and mass school closures.
Scroll down to watch the full video.
Snyder and her fellow PSU members Othella Stanback and Kelli Ross were also featured in an article on Colorlines that shows how Philly's education crisis is part of a national push to undermine and privatize public education:
"Philadelphia is deep into worst-case scenario territory, but it’s not alone. In cities like Cleveland, Detroit, Washington, D.C., and Chicago—all of them with sizable black populations and long histories of entrenched poverty—lawmakers have responded to budget crises with cuts to public education and market-driven education reform agendas. In a city like Philadelphia, which has the worst poverty rate of the ten largest U.S. cities, in which 39 percent of the city’s children live in poverty and in which blacks and Latinos are twice as likely as whites to be poor, robust public schools are even more vital. The consequences of the collapse of the city’s public school system is falling squarely on the backs of Stanback and her classmates."
These market-driven education reforms use a relentless push for standards and accountability as justification for closing down struggling schools and firing teachers. Yet because these "reform" fail to address issues like chronic underfunding of schools and lack of wraparound supports for underserved students, they have damaged the very students and communities they were meant to help.
Ultimately, it will be up to advocates and organizations like PSU to call for a new vision in education reform, one that provides every student with the equitable resources and opportunities they need to succeed.