Is Education a High Enough Priority?

I grew up in a school district that was fairly well off. Not only were our basic educational needs as students met, but the school went above and beyond as well. We had a large number of clubs, sports, fine arts programs,and leadership opportunities. Despite its faults, I always knew I was lucky to go to such an amazing school. However, after coming to Philadelphia, I am beginning to fully appreciate just how lucky I was.

Earlier this fall, I took a field trip with one of my classes to a high school in South Philadelphia. I had heard about the lack of money for the education system and how it was affecting the schools around Philadelphia. However, seeing the effects of such a thing first-hand made me realize the magnitude of the situation.

The school I visited not only almost didn’t open on time, but also almost opened without a counselor. Furthermore, it did open without a librarian. There were empty classrooms and a lack of extracurricular activities to keep the students busy (and away from trouble-causing opportunities). Others schools are being forced to share one nurse or counselor between eight different schools. Extracurriculars are one thing, but when students aren’t receiving the basic necessities, you know something is wrong. Forget the art and music programs, these schools can’t even afford to get textbooks and paper. Paper. Really?

As many of you know, a number of schools were closed this year. And things aren’t looking up any time soon. Schools are still facing a lack of money. Apparently, there are things the state considers to be more important than the basic education of our children. I, however, do not. Education is a fundamental right in this country. By the current actions taken to deteriorate the education system in Philadelphia, that right is being stripped away. Not only that, but it is also saying that the future of our children is not a priority. The only way to change the minds of those in charge is to raise awareness and speak out. We as citizens hold the power to create and shift policy.

Where do you think the money is going? Let’s see. While 23 schools were closed and even more are – and will continue to be – denied the basic necessities to function, $400 million is being spent on building a new prison. $300 million is needed to run the school system. It somehow doesn’t exist even though there is $400 million available for a new jail. The message is simple: kids, we’ve given up on you. We’re going to spend more money on the possibility most of you will eventually end up in prison than on the reality that you are all currently in school and in need of an education. Is this really something we want to allow to be continued? People have already spoken out about this issue; parents, teachers, etc. Nothing has had an effect. Students, now we need you. We need to see that you care about your education, about your future.

What do you think? Tell me, but don’t stop there. Band together and tell your mayor, your governor; start a movement and take charge of your futures.

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