We thought we’d seen it all. We made clear we were fed up with politics as usual. Given the crushing economic impact of COVID-19 shutdowns statewide, we were bracing for a doomsday scenario for public education in the Commonwealth.
This is an unprecedented achievement for Harrisburg that speaks volumes to the power of advocacy, demonstrated throughout the state as the PA Schools Work coalition flexed their collective grassroots might, amplifying the voices of students, parents, and teachers through a myriad of campaigns on social media, conversations, and town halls.
Here in our five-county region, we convened a series of Teen Town Halls where 65 students took center stage, telling 47 lawmakers exactly what was at stake if massive cuts remained on the table. [Watch Philadelphia Teen Town Hall on our FB page] Parents, pre-K leaders and educators also joined PCCY on more than 25 video conference calls with lawmakers making the case to shield young children and students from the budget havoc caused by COVID.
Everyone involved in the passage of this stop-gap budget deserves congratulations and encouragement for this bipartisan effort, not only because we have a dearth of things to celebrate these days, but because they know the fight that lies ahead. A stop-gap is just a stop-gap, after all, and doesn’t grapple with the greater, longer-lasting impact that the pandemic will have on public schools.
Now we must turn to Congress for the emergency funding needed to rescue the childcare sector and public schools. The best of our childcare programs are unlikely to make it given the expenses that COVID requires to keep our children safe, and our plummeting local revenues will take a nearly $1 billion toll on our public schools.
There is no question that our children need bipartisan cooperation to take hold at the national level to address the coming storm, whose nature remains largely unknowable though its impact is certainly unavoidable. That’s why we are seeking federal funding for these priorities to help mitigate the damage:
Flat funding for schools in September does not address the tremendous costs that schools will incur to make sure students are safe when they return to class. We need emergency funding to cover PPE and other life-saving equipment for every district.
During the shutdown, we saw too many students left behind due to the Digital Divide. If every child has a right to a good education, we need Congress to finally address the inequities children in lower-income households face in terms of internet access.
More schools may be remediated of toxic lead and asbestos, but what good are cleaner schools if they’re falling apart? We can’t wait any longer to shore up our crumbling school buildings.
Federally mandated special education supports are entirely necessary to ensure children with disabilities receive the education they need, just as it is necessary that the federal government finally fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
Federal emergency funds must flow to high quality child care program so they can stay afloat and safely care for our youngest children.
Help us keep up the momentum to protect public education. Join the PA Schools Work campaign by SIGNING UP HERE and stay tuned as the work to spare children from unnecessary harm in the wake of COVID-19 continues.
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Beating out thousands across the country, students at Strawberry Mansion High School are the grand prize winners in the Vans Custom Culture contest, scoring $50k for their arts program with their Philly Style rendition of a pair of iconic Vans kicks.
“The advocacy that you’re doing does not go unnoticed. You have an opportunity to be involved. Pick up that phone and use Instagram and Twitter and Snapchat to help get the message out to your friends about the issues that are important to you.” PA State Representative Jordan Harris, to Philadelphia students fighting against underfunded public schools. Rep. Harris and other legislators joined PCCY in our PHL Teen Town Hall on Friday.