by Sue Ann Rybak
Mayor Michael Nutter called on parents to pressure politicians to adequately fund Philadelphia public schools on during his May 14 “listening tour” at C.W. Henry Elementary School, 601 Carpenter Lane.
Henry School was one of four Philadelphia Public Schools Nutter visited to see firsthand the impact of the devastating cuts to education.
Nutter met with Henry principal Fatima Rogers, teachers, students and a group of ten parents.
Kelly Tannen, president of Henry’s Parent Teacher Association, was one of the parents who attended. She said parents voiced concerns about the lack of a school nurse, the lack of a functioning library and next year’s proposed budget.
Tannen said Nutter told parents that “there is not enough conversation about the crisis in Philadelphia public schools, that we need to be louder, that we need to to reach out to City Council members and to politicians at the state level and ask them to commit to making decisions that will increase resources for Philadelphia’s schools.”
Derren Mangum, who moved from East Mt. Airy three years ago so his kids could attend Henry, also attended the meeting. He voiced his concerns about the growing chasm of educational inequalities between Philadelphia public schools and suburban school districts such as Lower Merion.
“I am extremely concerned about the amount of time, attention and resources we are spending just trying to fill in gaps of basic needs, when we should be focused on pushing our kids to excel and providing opportunities to fully develop their potential, instead of providing a merely ‘adequate’ educational experience,” Mangum said. “We should be pushing this generation to exceed our own accomplishments and put them on a footing to contribute globally.”
Mangum asked the Mayor “How can anyone believe that kids can thrive in this environment?”
Both Tannen and Mangum said they felt as if their concerns were heard by the Mayor.
Tannen said, however, that Nutter “did not give a clear message about his commitment to do something” about the crisis in education.
Mangum agreed with Tannen that Nutter seemed sincere in his remarks.
“He was frank about the situation, about his shock about the lack of movement legislatively both in City Hall and Harrisburg,” Mangum said. “He spoke as a parent of a Philadelphia-educated child, and how he certainly understood the stark inequalities of education by living just a few blocks from City Avenue and the completely different world of Lower Merion.”
When asked about the proposed plan to split revenue earned through a 1 percent sales tax increase, Tannen said all residents of Philadelphia should be concerned about the state of Philadelphia’s public schools.
“Every child, irregardless of where they live or how much money their parents make, has the right to a quality education,” she said.
Mangum reiterated Tannen’s statement.
“Without even considering education as a basic human right and a key responsibility of American citizenship and governance, from a practical standpoint the education of this generation of Philadelphians and Pennsylvanians is essential to the growth and well-being of each and every community,” Mangum said. “Even if you do not directly use public education, your neighbors do, your extended family may, your co-workers do. And you indirectly benefit from it every second of the day by your interactions with the people of Philadelphia, with those who have and will rely on public education as their foundation.”