It’s June and Pennsylvania is starting to sound like a beehive on a sunny day, buzzing with public education activism.
In Philadelphia, grassroots public school advocates are pushing to restore a local, democratically elected school board after the state-imposed commission currently running the district passed a draconian budget, wiping out public education as we know it. The plan cuts 3,000 more employees (including teachers); completely eliminates counselors, librarians, and secretaries; provides only one nurse for every 1,500 students; and gets rid of athletics, music, and art. [Philly.com, 6-4-13] As Philly parents have pointed out, this is a plan to warehouse students, rather than educate them. [Philly.com, 6-2-13]
Meanwhile, in Allentown yesterday, public school advocates delivered a petition with hundreds of parent signatures protesting state budget cuts. Because of Governor Corbett’s massive de-funding of Pennsylvania’s public schools, Allentown has just proposed a plan to cut over 150 employees – nearly all teachers, and most of those in art, library, and physical education. As protestors marched past the Lehigh County Prison, one mother pointed at the building and observed that when students lose arts and extracurricular activities, “They wind up there.” [Lehigh Valley Live, 6-3-13]
Tonight in Shippensburg, our sister grassroots group Education Matters in the Cumberland Valley is hosting a rally to protest state budget cuts. The group will also be highlighting current budget priorities that drain resources away from public schools. All of the area’s state representatives were invited but are refusing to attend – a sign of just how out-of-touch many of our legislators are with their constituents. As Susan Spicka explains, “Our legislators … can choose to cut corporate taxes more or to fund public education. We need them to make funding public education their top priority.” [The Sentinel, 6-4-13]
And today in Harrisburg, a coalition of groups called on legislators to pass a responsible budget. Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner stressed, “Budgets are about priorities, and it is time for Harrisburg to put its priorities into what counts: schools, roads, safe and healthy communities.” Wager also said, “While I certainly recognize the need for balancing budgets, budgets should not be balanced on the backs of our students, working families and the elderly.” [Better Choices for Pennsylvania, 6-4-13]
Are the cuts to the state education budget and our schools making you feel like stinging someone? Here’s what you can do to get busy as a bee:
- The Better Choices for PA coalition is asking for people across the state to flood the offices of the General Assembly today with calls demanding investment in our public goods. Find more information about this call-in-day here, along with a sample script you can read on the phone and an email form you can use to email your legislators afterwards.
- If you miss your chance to call today, Education Voters PA has set its next state-wide call-your-legislator day for next Monday, June 10th. Plan now to take a few minutes on that day to call your state representative, senator, and the governor’s office to let them know we must put $270 million back in this year’s budget – and each of the next two years – to replace the public funds cut to our schools.
- In local action news, Pittsburgh Public Schools is asking for your input as it develops its strategic plan to deal with both financial and academic challenges. The plan is likely to include proposed school closings, along with increased class sizes and other measures. We’ve learned that there will be no report from the district’s consultants – the administration is working right right now to develop recommendations. If you want your voice heard, now is the time to speak up! Take the survey today – it closes on Friday, June 7th.
- Finally, mark you calendars now for Tuesday, June 25th! Yinzercation is part of a new coalition called GPS (Great Public Schools) Pittsburgh, which is sponsoring a bus trip to Harrisburg during the final week of budget negotiations. We will meet with our fellow grassroots advocates from all over the state – Philadelphia alone is planning to send 10 buses! – as we rally on the Capitol steps. We particularly want to encourage students to go, so please think about your own high school aged kids or student groups you work with and help us plan this action. Keep your eye out for more information on this exciting new coalition as well as the bus trip.
There’s nothing like an angry hive of parents, students, teachers, and community members fighting together for public education. These bees are ready to swarm. Join the action and buzz away!