Pennsylvania House and Senate Republican leaders declared last week’s vote to amend the state constitution and limit the powers of the Governor to declare an emergency a “victory for the people of Pennsylvania.” The swift process used to place this measure on the ballot and the deep pocketed campaign to pass the measure is a clear example that lawmakers get things done that matter to them.
It’s difficult not to draw the conclusion that solving the emergency conditions in public schools across the commonwealth simply don’t matter enough.
To mark the 67th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education on Monday, Penn Wood High School senior Nasharie Stewart sounded the alarm for every lawmaker to rush to respond.
“In 1954…the United States Supreme Court decided that an education was priceless.
“The highest court in the land said, ‘In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.’
“It is not lost on me that this case was filed because Black children lacked access to schools that were equal schools to those attended by White children. I don’t know what it was like to attend school in 1954, but I can tell you about my school now.
“When I was an elementary school, we had a gas leak in our building so many of us were sent to other districts to finish the school year. I was one of those students.
“It’s almost impossible to realize something isn’t right when it’s all you’ve ever known. I was so young back then that I didn’t think twice about the lack of quality textbooks, or the fact that, in my elementary school, there was an entire floor not in use because of how damaged the space was. Space that could become classrooms and allow us to not have to sit shoulder to shoulder in a 30-student room.
“But when you have something to compare it to and when that comparison is loud and in your face, you can’t ignore it. So imagine my surprise when I visited the other school and saw students, each with their own textbooks in pristine condition, walking around this huge glass school building. You could feel the difference. And you can’t help but ask, why not us?
“In 1954, before the decision was made to end segregation in schools, Black students sat in buildings that were falling apart and read from books that were missing pages. Yet today, 67 years since, we are still in those buildings, and we are still reading from those worn-out textbooks. Time hasn’t stopped and neither should our efforts to provide our schools with equal and fair funding.”
State lawmakers are currently violating the state constitution by failing to fund public schools. To be sure, the communities most affected don’t have the political power or the war chests needed to mount statewide referenda. But elected officials know that polls find that more than 70% of all voters agree with Nasharie. This is THE emergency that matters.
With your help we can make it matter much more to state lawmakers. Join us at 10:00am tomorrow for a virtual statewide education forum and learn strategies to demand that legislators make increased state education funding PRIORITY ONE.