Please, Sir, May We Have Some More?
Dear Mayor Kenney,
My name is Diana Myers, and I am a recent graduate of Masterman High School, right here in Philadelphia. I have attended city public schools all my life, and know firsthand the various difficulties Philadelphia students have faced over the years, especially those as a result of extensive budget cuts. Even though I’m very fortunate to go to a high-performing and well-funded school, I’m aware that that’s not the case for every school in the city. As I’m sure you know, last year Pennsylvania approved a fair-funding formula which is supposed to distribute the state’s education budget fairly among all districts according to need. I am writing because I do not believe that this new formula will fully help the struggling schools here, and to ask you, along with City Council and the School Reform Commission, to please devise a plan that will continue to split funding fairly among the schools that need it most.
The fair funding formula adopted by the state is supposed to account for different factors in school districts around the state, like how many students live in poverty, are English language learners, or are enrolled in charter schools. That’s fine, except Philadelphia has extremely high proportions of these students in comparison to the rest of the state—for instance, 87% of students here are economically disadvantaged, as opposed to 43% for all of Pennsylvania. Also, the formula only applies to new money; it doesn’t take into account how much we’re already behind. Since students here have already been at a disadvantage for so long, receiving our fair share of funding now won’t necessarily bring the quality of our education up to what it should be, or even in line with the richer districts just across the city line—it’ll just be our fair share. To ensure truly equal education, we’d need much more money than we can realistically hope to receive right now, but that’s an issue the state government will have to work out.
I believe that even with the insufficient funds the city receives, there are still things you can do to make sure that the underperforming schools here get what they need. I don’t need to tell you about the terrible things that happen when schools lack the funds to pay for enough teachers, security guards, and nurses; we all remember the 6th grader who actually died because there was no nurse in the building that day. Although nothing quite so bad happened at Masterman, I remember that during my freshman year, when the school district was short several hundred million dollars, we couldn’t afford printer paper. Parents were donating reams of paper when they could, but we primarily did our work on computers for a few months. But my school was an outlier in that regard, because we actually had computers. Not every school does, and those are the ones who need help most.
I know that there are already several different local taxes in place to help fund education programs in Philadelphia, and that raising or adding taxes would cause a great deal of unhappiness, and therefore can’t be a solution to our problem. What I don’t know is how money is distributed among individual schools. I’ve heard whispers that my school, and other magnet schools like it, at one time received more funding than neighborhood schools so that our test scores would stay high and make the district look good. If that’s still the case, I advise you to rethink that. Masterman has a very active Home and School Association that writes grant proposals and raises thousands of dollars each year to pay for more computers, new chemistry labs, and special after-school programs. But not every school has affluent parents ready to donate. Masterman’s test scores won’t suffer if we don’t receive as much funding from the state. We don’t need special treatment from the district, but schools like Strawberry Mansion and John Bartram, which also have significant problems with violence and truancy, do. These schools should be the ones receiving the most funding.
I would like you to work towards making sure that the limited funding Philadelphia schools receive is funneled to the schools that need it the most. As many studies have shown, the more resources schools have to properly educate all of their students, the more successful those students will be in the long run. Mayor Kenney, you’re a man of the people, and I have confidence that you want to see all Philadelphians get what they need. For the students here, that means more fairly distributed funding for their educations. If you would like to further discuss ways to improve education for underserved and underfunded students in Philadelphia, I can be reached via the contact information below.
This piece was written as part of JWA’s Rising Voices Fellowship.
How to cite this page
Myers, Diana. "Please, Sir, May We Have Some More? ." 14 June 2017. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on January 22, 2020) <https://jwa.org/blog/risingvoices/please-sir-may-we-have-some-more>.