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Rebooting Philadelphia's Public Education System

Amanda Cintron

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The festering crisis of the underfunded Philadelphia public school system has become so alarming over the years, that it often makes national headlines. Jim Kenney, Philadelphia’s new mayor, claims to want to make crucial changes to the city’s impoverished public education system, which provides hope for an otherwise hollow school system.

According to Philadelphia Magazine, only 14 percent of fourth-graders in Philadelphia’s public schools are proficient at reading, a stark contrast to the national average of 34 percent. As the country’s fifth largest city, it is appalling that only 10 percent of children who attend public schools move on to higher education. These facts alone make the future of Philadelphia seem dreadfully bleak.

It is no secret that Philly’s public schools are lacking textbooks, technology, and most importantly, staff members that help the schools operate smoothly. In some schools, nurses and counselors are available to students once a week, leaving teachers to add more responsibilities to their ever-growing job description. From scraped knees to asthma attacks, four days out of the week teachers are stopping their lessons to help students with their ailments. In addition to buying their own supplies and taking over responsibilities of nurses and counselors, teachers are also coming up with creative pest management solutions due to the cut in custodial services. Special-education classroom assistants have also been laid off in mass amounts causing special-education teachers to spread themselves out even thinner.

However, most importantly it’s about the children who are depending on Philadelphia’s public education system to prepare them for our ever-changing world. These children are lacking the resources needed to succeed including music and art classes which are most important in helping children think creatively.

Philly is an attractive city. I like to think of Philly as New York’s sassy older cousin who’s trying to overcome a few “personal setbacks.” It’s one of the most reasonably priced major cities in the country while also overflowing with history, art, and entertainment. The City of Brotherly Love manages to balance small town charm with a bustling downtown. These are the alluring qualities that seek to attract young professionals whom hold the power to really make Philly prominent. The problems begin when it’s time to start a family in Philadelphia. In the fashion of that troubled older cousin, Philly’s baggage is just too much for the long haul. The number of budding families picking up and moving to the suburbs is rising and it’s not white picket fences they’re seeking, it is decent public education for their children.

South Philly native and Democrat, Jim Kenney, prides himself on being in touch with reality. He is often spotted riding on the El and is even endorsed by the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. According to Kenney, much of the problem would be resolved if Governor Corbett had funded public schools and reimbursed Philadelphia for charter school costs. Kenney, along with many others, doesn’t believe that education should be a profit making-venture. Will Jim Kenney be the voice these children need?

The children are the future of Philadelphia and of our country. These challenges cannot be resolved overnight and it will take dedication and persistence to get state reimbursement back to Philadelphia and into public schools. Until then, sacrifices will continue to be made by teachers and parents.

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