Today the Basic Education Funding Commission held the second part of a controversial two-day visit to Philadelphia to collect testimony that will inform the possibility of a funding formula for Pennsylvania’s schools. The Commission had refused to hear from parents, students or community members representing concerns about adequate funding in the Philadelphia public schools. According to a spokesman, the Commission’s purpose was “to find ways to more fairly distribute the funds made available, not determine “adequacy” levels of what is needed.” Thankfully our colleagues at P.O.W.E.R. threatened civil disobedience and was able to win a half hour of public testimony before the commission. Parents United leader Tomika Anglin was one of the parents to submit a two-minute testimony.
I want to thank our partners at P.O.W.E.R. for recognizing the importance of the Basic Ed Commission hearing the voices of the people who actually live the consequences of the policies created Harrisburg.
My name is Tomika Anglin. I am a single mother who has successfully raised two high school graduates and I currently have one daughter in the seventh grade. I am here as a member of Parents United for Public Education, a citywide parents organization supporting quality public schools in Philadelphia and raising an independent parent voice as a critical component of sustainable and transformative change. Parents of this city want to send their children into the educational setting most suited to address their needs as students. Resources make a difference in the educational outcomes for our children. Overcrowded classrooms, no fulltime nursing staff and no art do not. Our children are important to the success of this city and state. A funding formula which takes into account the needs of all of the state’s precious children is essential. Resources are vitally imperative to success.
On this table are over 800 formal complaints filed by parents and educators against the Pennsylvania Department of Education alleging massive violations of the Pennsylvania code governing education. What is happening in Philadelphia – under your watch – is not about how to manage resources. It’s that the current funding levels in place has destabilized every single school across this city – high performing and struggling, neighborhood and magnet.
We’ve got students at Bodine High School who won’t take physics and don’t have the state promise of four years of a foreign language – at a school for INTERNATIONAL affairs. We have closed libraries and computer centers for children at Willard Elementary, no arts last year in the early grades for children at AS Jenks, even though the state code insists that every child in every year of the primary grades gets a rich course in arts, music, dance and theater. We have schools without full-time counselors, high schools with two week waits to see a counselor. At Central High last year with only two counselors for 2400 students, each child would have received a total of less than 17 minutes per year. At Lingelbach Elementary, you demand children pass the PSSAs but that school has $160 to cover all programs, books and supplies, 40 cents a year for each student.
The issue on the table for funding is about two things: adequacy and equity. That is your purpose. To ensure that each child in this state is entitled to a quality public education and that the resources of the Commonwealth go toward reducing inequity across the state, not reinforcing it. That to me is the definition of a PUBLIC system of education.
As it stands, Pennsylvania is doing neither.
Tomika Anglin is the mother of three, two young adults and one seventh grader. She is also a member of Opt-Out Philly opposing high stakes testing.