A sickening situation in Philadelphia schools

First off let me state that I am shocked at this. Never before have I seen so many youth let down. To me it just seems impossible that the biggest school district in the state of Pennsylvania would go belly up.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this let me fill you in.

Recent deep cuts in education by Republican Gov. Tom Corbett have left school districts around the state unable to operate.

The Philadelphia public school system is bankrupt.

This year alone in Philadelphia, 40 schools are being closed with a further 64 being closed by 2017.

I’ve never felt so bitter, and frightened for the future generation of Pennsylvanians. The entire district is being dismantled and replaced by a for-profit system operated on behalf of the city by private corporations and charter schools; I’m so sickened.

A couple months ago I wrote an article on the value of community colleges and of a public education. I come from a family of four kids. We had parents who loved us and worked their butts off so we could have a good life. We never went to private schools. Instead we had a quality education at a public school at no cost to us. I still put everything I learned from that education toward my future goals and aspirations. I apply the knowledge learned from each class and teacher to good use. I value the wealth of knowledge and the power that came from a public education.

But now students in Philadelphia, the majority of them minority or low-income, will never know the freedom and value that I’ve experienced from a public education. Because you know what matters at the end of the day for these private for-profit companies? Money. Greed. Power. Profit. Wealth. Does anyone really think that kids are going to get a better education at these schools run by corporations?

It’s sad because these schools will not care about their kids. They’re for profit. All they care about is making money, money, money. Nothing else. They answer to the shareholders. Not the kids or parents.

And I am truly saddened and heartbroken for not only the kids. But for the teachers, custodians, aides, and every other employee who is going to lose their job in this turmoil. Because those are people who really matter, these are real people we’re talking about. Human beings who need our help and hearts. Human beings in need. For some of the kids school is the safest place they’ll ever be in their lives. There are employees who are parents, wives, husbands, daughters, brothers. They have families and friends to support and provide for.

And now instead of fixing the existing system, which can be improved, they’re just going to give up and leave people out to rot! When I heard about this I literally cried! I cry for the students who won’t have a hot breakfast and lunch to look forward to, their only meals for that day. I cry for the student athlete whose team is disbanded and college scholarships slip away, and with that the freedom to escape an inner city and a life of poverty. I cry for the teacher who has to explain to her husband and kids that they won’t have a means of support or health insurance anymore because she has been laid off. I cry for all the disabled and special education students who will be left without services and supports like I was fortunate to have when I was in school.

All this was done without public consultation or a waiting period. It just popped out of the blue! Don’t these people have rights? All this is being done behind closed doors without any transparency.

How to fix or stop this? I don’t know yet. The first priority should be for youth, parents, unions, the Occupy movement, social justice and community organizations, people of faith, people of all backgrounds and minorities to come together under a united banner and flag to save their schools.

Present alternatives. Protest using a variety of methods such as sit-ins, teach-ins, nonviolent resistance, walkouts, traditional protests. Anything to get attention to the fact that this is the wrong way to go and that the citizens and students of Philadelphia need to work out the problems of the schools together.

I am hoping and praying that something big happens. I hope this whole thing blows up in the administration’s face. We need to save our schools – they’re worth it.

Photo: Ben Sears/PeoplesWorld.org 



Michael Leonard
Michael Leonard

Michael Leonard spends his time writing for a variety of progressive causes. In his spare time he writes fiction.