Voices of the People: Our Vision for Our Children, Our City, and the Future of Public Education

On May 21st, 2016, a group of Philadelphians concerned about the education of our city’s children gathered to envision a better present and future for our communities. Parents, family members, community members, educators, organizers, activists, citizens– no matter the titles we attached to our roles and identities within the schools and communities of our city, each of us was committed to sharing our visions for what education could and should be in the City of Sisterly and Brotherly Love. This document is a product of the sharing of our visions, and the cumulative drive and commitment that fuel them.

We came together due to the many levels of injustice and negligence we observe in our school system. We came together due to our frustration that parents are neither listened to nor heard (and if we don’t act, who will?). We came together to create connections across the School District of Philadelphia and beyond. We came together because we are committed to being a voice for all children. We are a progressive group of individuals who plan to drive positive change through innovative solutions in K12 education.

The educational experience and environment we envision for our children is diverse, dynamic, and democratic. We want our schools and school system to honor children as full human beings. We want schools that honor and support the experiences of our children, including true respect for and understanding of the need for trauma-informed and culturally relevant teaching and learning. We want schools that respect different learning styles and foster inter-generational learning relationships and environments. We want our schools to provide more humane and flexible learning opportunities that include art, music, dance, theatre, athletics, civic engagement, practical life skills, and career and technical education. We want every school to provide our children with functioning libraries (with librarians!), green outdoor space, structured, activity based recess, updated English language learner (ELL) curricula, and access to fresh, healthy food. We want every school to engage in and support meaningful parental involvement and engagement. We want class sizes that allow for more attention for our children from teachers and other educators (ideally no more than 22 students per class). We want our children to be able to attend school without fear of violence. We want our children’s social and emotional development to be nurtured by a learning environment and school culture committed to mutual respect, restorative justice, and the principles of cooperation and collectivity. We want our children’s creativity and critical thinking to be nurtured, and their intelligence to be inspired in an atmosphere of empowerment and freedom.

Our individual and collective commitments to make this vision a reality is at once diverse and united. We are committed to making change in our schools. We are committed to using our contagious passion and persistence to bring more parents into our movement, to develop clear plans for common goals, and to bridge the gaps between parents and educators. We know our rights as parents and we will push for them. We hear the voices of the youth, and we will listen to them as we fight alongside them. And throughout, we will be vigilant and prepared to address and resist decisions that impact us but don’t include us: “nothing about us without us.”

We will continue to connect with, learn from, and empower each other. We will always speak for, listen to, and advocate on behalf of our children. We will keep pushing. We will never give up. We will continue the work of creating a better life for our children and our communities.