Students and educators share stories at community forum

Photo credit: Lauren Hansen-Flaschen
A panel of students, teachers, and parents at a community forum in March discussed issues facing Philadelphia schools.

On March 6, Bread & Roses convened 130 supporters to explore the devastating effects of funding cuts to the Philadelphia School District.

The event began with Media Mobilizing Project’s short film Our Schools are Not for Sale, followed by small group discussions about the film and attendees’ personal experiences. Afterwards, a panel of education activists — including two teachers, two students, a parent, and a policy expert — shared how funding cuts and school closures have directly impacted their schools and communities.

Sharron Snyder, a high school senior and organizer with Philadelphia Student Union, addressed the actions that students have taken to protest the cuts, including a citywide walkout last May that included about 2,000 students. “Because of the walkout, I felt like my voice was finally being heard,” Snyder said. “I felt so powerful.”

The panel also addressed the dubious reform policies imposed on the district by outside interests. “They hop from city to city and implement the same type of reforms,” said history teacher Brendon Jobs of the consultants, philanthropists, and other private citizens who have emerged to manage the city’s ailing school system.

After the panel, the audience heard from David Lapp, a staff attorney at the Education Law Center, and Kia Hinton, a parent activist and organizer with ACTION United. Lapp told the crowd about filing lawsuits to get fair funding and increase charter school accountability, while Hinton emphasized the need for communities to push for more funding but also ensure equitable distribution.

Dawn Hawkins, mother of a North Philadelphia middle schooler, summed up the situation: “These budget cuts are breaking our children down, but these are my babies and I have to protect them.”

The forum stressed the magnitude and urgency of the education crisis in Philadelphia and highlighted the importance of social justice supporters fighting for good schools.