I am still fuming over the fiasco here in Philadelphia last Friday. For those who missed it, Our Governor was scheduled to visit one of the top high schools in the state, to honor Central, Masterman and Carver High Schools, for their stellar PSSA performance last year. This was a very big deal because, in his three years of leading the state, he has not once set foot in a school in Pennsylvania’s largest school district. He cut funding, redistributed education money to politically connected districts, and refused to raise taxes or transfer tax revenue to schools. He blatantly refused to help the state-run, financially destitute, Philadelphia School District, and had never bothered to visit any of the schools to see what teachers are up against every single day. He’s probably kicking himself now for not visiting earlier. He would have gotten a better reception a few years ago, than he got in his aborted visit to Central on Friday.
I am thrilled that our beleaguered city had THREE of the top schools in the state despite the high poverty and draconian budget cuts our city schools endure. But the general public should know that these are very selective magnet schools that admit only the best of the best. I would have been very surprised if they had not done well. Kids that attend neighborhood schools would kill to be admitted to any one of those schools for high school so they could avoid the drama and apathy that so often seeps into their local schools. That said, I congratulate the wonderfully smart and articulate students that attend the three high schools. They were very dissatisfied with the outcome of the Philly schools’ financial inadequacies, and were prepared to let him know at their now-cancelled meeting him.
Philadelphia has a very vocal parent organization, Parents United for Public Education, as well as an active and vocal student-run Student Union. Both groups have joined the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers in marches, protests, and testifying before the SRC meetings. The union sent some representatives to Central to voice their displeasure, but the large majority in attendance seemed to be parents and students out to exercise their civic rights and responsibilities against a leader who has shown disdain for public education. What a better way to learn civics than to participate in a non-violent protest?
When it became apparent that the Governor was going to be met by protestors, he moved his entourage to the safety of his downtown office, insulated from any dissent. He decried the protest as an adult bunch of theatrics that would have taken away from the honor he was about to bestow on the schools. What he may have realized, however, was that there were as many, or more students inside the building who wanted to know why they didn’t have a library, supplies, books, and enough counselors. They wanted to know why their classes were filled to the brim, their teachers overworked, and the other schools in the city had it much worse than they did. They were dressed in red in solidarity against the crippling budget cuts schools in the city have endured this year. They had a petition prepared to present, and an open letter to the Governor asking for help. These were not just any students. These are the ones that will get accepted into prestigious universities and do great things in the future. These are the kids that will be able to vote in a few years, and hopefully express their displeasure with Pennsylvania’s lack of support for public education.
What he may not have expected is that his avoidance of controversy at Central High School would make things much worse for him politically than if he had addressed the protestors. He is running for a second term, even while his poll numbers indicate he is the least popular governor ever.
Good luck, Mr. Corbett! You’ll need it.
See an excellent response to the situation in the media. Someone has an Attytood.