PFT Member Benjamin Hover's Remarks at Education Equity Event

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4-5-21

PFT Member Benjamin Hover deliverd the following remarks at Senator Hughes' event on Education Equity:


 

<p style="font-variant-numeric: normal; font-variant-east-asian: normal; font-stretch: normaThank you, Senator Hughes and thank you to the many speakers and representatives for coming today to request, to implore, to demand that our legislature does what is right by the children of Pennsylvania and fund our schools fairly and equitably.

 

Today, we are here to recognize the legacy of Martin Luther King who fought and demanded that the United States government fund that promissory note given to African-American men, women, and children that had been returned “marked with insufficient funds.”

 

And here we are today six decades later demanding that our representatives from throughout Pennsylvania fulfill their constitutional duty to provide a fair and equitable distribution of state money to allow for equality in educational experiences for all students in Pennsylvania.

 

The two decades I have taught in the School District of Philadelphia has been a story of bearing witness to the numerous cuts to necessary programs in Philadelphia, which not only disrupted the careers of many dedicated professional educators, but caused serious harm to to the futures of students who deserved better

 

I watched as libraries were removed and librarian positions cut, so now there are fewer than 10 certified librarians on the district payroll with only about a dozen additional schools able to keep libraries open part-time through the dedication of volunteers. These cuts create a long-standing inequality with students in wealthier suburban districts.

 

I work with great students at Central with a strong library and one of the few librarians still in the district. Despite having a great librarian with one of the most well stocked libraries in the Philadelphia School District, many of the students arrive at Central without any experience of working in a school library in their elementary years because of the cuts.

In 2013, the School District of Philadelphia laid off all of the school counselors, even now the district’s formula now provides funding for at least one per about 950 kids.

 

This jeopardizes the health and future of our children. 

 

Even now, Central High School, whose mission is to “be a college preparatory public school to challenge our students with rigorous academic programs to prepare them for the demands of higher education” has a student population of approximately 2000 with only 5 counselors—which is a one to 400 ratio. My colleagues are great, my students are great, but we need more counselors to support these students in their future goals.

 

Governor Corbett’s cuts and the cuts in education from the state and federal government over the last twenty years have left a legacy of cuts in programming and institutional neglect that still needs to be remedied.

 

Not only are the cuts noted in the programming, but also in the facilities. My students would regularly attend scholastic and athletic competitions outside of the city and come back demoralized because of the quality of the institutions they attended in Bucks, Montgomery, and Delaware County. The physical appearance of the buildings and quality of facilities—the clean restrooms with proper soap and toilet paper, the libraries stocked with books, the teams funded through school budgets instead of gofundme or donors choose accounts—all taught my students where the state thought they ranked in the hierarchy.

 

Despite this treatment, my career has also been a story of success.The teachers and students in our schools are still successful and still demonstrate that they are our future leaders and are champions.

 

Crossing a city line or living in a certain zip code should not dictate the quality of school you attend.  

 

Imagine what we, the teachers, can do with equal and equitable funding.

 

Imagine what they, they students, can do with equal and equitable funding.

 

Our students have a constitutional right granted by the constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to an equal education.
 
 
Governor Wolf’s proposal to fund our school districts through the fair Funding Formula will work to redress the past cuts and consistent inequities and establish a process to ensure equitable funding in the future.
 
 
Whether you are a student going to school in the 19050 zip code where I live in the William Penn School District, or as student going to school in 19141 zip code where I teach in Philadelphia, or crossing the city line to Lower Merion High School in 19003, you deserve a high quality school with great facilities, quality materials, and librarians, teachers, nurses and counselors to support you in your future goals.
 
 
For the first time in a generation, we have the opportunity to build programs instead of lament the cuts. 
 
 
For the first time in a generation, we can look our kids in the eyes and tell them that the state treats them equally.
 
 
For the first time in a generation, we can build new schools, new programs, and hire more teachers, librarians, and counselors.
 
 
Together, we ask, we implore, we demand:
 
  • Fund our Facilities.
  • Fund our Schools.
  • Fund us Fairly.