Well, we did. We did, despite having a per pupil spending that is only 60% of that of Lower Merion—the school district 20 minutes away, despite having teachers who must each be responsible for more than 180 students, despite sitting in classrooms that have more students than desks. Despite all of the obstacles that foreshadowed a different outcome, we are ranked #2 on the School Performance Profiles in the entire state of Pennsylvania. So that is why, they say, you are here. You are here to honor us. You were not there when we carried the thousands of letters to your office in Harrisburg. You were not there when the hundreds of students, parents, and teachers waited in the rain for two hours for your response on June 14, 2013 in downtown Philadelphia. But now, you are here, at Central High. You are here to honor us— except this is not an honor, by any measure. This visit is a mockery. It is a mockery of every Central student who has to wait two weeks to get help from a counselor, because the student to counselor ratio is 1 to 1200. It is a mockery of every Central teacher who has to buy their own paper and school supplies and spend dozens of hours every week handling non-teaching responsibilities because of inadequate funding.
We don’t want to be honored this way. We want accountability from the state. We know you are not solely responsible for the budget crisis and its implications. But you, as the governor, have a duty toward the children of Philadelphia. Or have you forgotten that we are part of your constituency? Your budget secretary, Charles Zogby, says spending money on Philadelphia students only gets us “kids who can’t read and do math.” Well, we have demonstrated that we can read and do math. But instead of coming here, ten months before the gubernatorial election, to give us a speech, I urge you to actually listen to students’ voices. Instead of “honoring” a magnet school for achieving high scores, I urge you to visit high schools like West Philadelphia High School and Overbrook High School- schools that don’t have alumni that spend millions of dollars making up for the yearly gap in funding. Instead of dismissing students for being products of a system that has forsaken them, I urge you to consider the long-term solutions that have been offered so that schools can begin providing the education that they deserve.
In November, I, along with more than five hundreds of my senior classmates will be eligible to vote. Although we will no longer be students in the School District of Philadelphia, we will not forget to ask, “Who will be the governor that recognizes the public school students of Philadelphia as constituents, as children who have a right to education?” I hope you consider the same question.
273rd Graduating Class of CHS