Tom Wolf takes over as governor next week, and he’ll replace a man who presided over substantial budget cuts to state education from elementary schools all the way to colleges. The total amount of money for public education in Pennsylvania fell by $1 billion during Tom Corbett’s tenure.
In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s education crisis is particularly acute, with shortfall after shortfall the last several years and the closing of over 30 schools since 2012. In 2014, weeks before the gubernatorial election, the government-appointed SRC canceled its contract with Philly teachers, ending their health care plans. Teachers and students responded with protests in Philly and Harrisburg.
Wolf has said he wants to abolish the SRC and wants a fair-funding formula that would increase state aid to schools from 32 percent to 50 percent of their budgets, but mainly battered Corbett’s education cuts during his campaign.
What will the future hold? What will Wolf do? Billy Penn talked to several area teachers and gathered a wish list for the new governor’s consideration.
Larissa Pahomov, Science Leadership Academy wants autonomy for Philly schools
Philadelphia schools have neither the funding nor the autonomy they deserve. As a result, the district is in turmoil, and the manufactured financial crisis is used as an excuse for divisive reforms and forced concessions. Educators are doing everything they can to keep their schools from falling to pieces, while state politicians refuse to restore the funding we had just a decade ago. We need state funding that approaches 50% of our total budget, instead of the 35% we get now. Also, Act 46 (which gave the state more financial control over Philadelphia schools) needs to be repealed post haste. Philadelphia deserves control over its own school board, and educators deserve a contract that cannot be summarily canceled by our employer.
Fern Chamow, Sullivan Elementary wants better supplies
We need updated laptops to use with our smart boards and some of us need smart boards. We need new computers for the classroom, and iPads… And we need basics, copy paper, paper clips etc.
Jerry Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Teachers Federation wants the elimination of mandated state testing
Children are over-tested, and just so much time is spent during the school year and during the school day with children and teachers preparing for the test. The tests should not be conducted the way they are being conducted. Tests should be a way of diagnosing educational needs. This constant testing is just bad for children, and it’s bad for schools, and it just takes so much time away from the pleasure of really educating children.
Andrew Saltz, Paul Robeson High School for Human Services, wants stability
There are integral things missing from my room, that I feel could make a huge difference in my students’ lives. I look at other classrooms – like Central Bucks and Council Rock, and I am jealous!! They have beautiful rooms that are perfect to help students reach their goals for independence.
My ideal room would have a:
- Kitchenette (fridge, stove/oven, counter space/cabinets and washer and dryer set up to help students work on their life skills which would assist them in their independence throughout their lives.
- A Smartboard and working computers or iPads, because my students with Autism are such visual learners, it benefits them greatly to work from technology.
- Julia Cook Book Sets, which help teach social skills in a super fun yet understandable way. As well as other books that could benefit my students.
- A sensory room for my students, and any student who needs a “break” could come and calm down.
- 2 “kidney” tables.
- 6 dividers for independent work.
And finally, I would love to have funding to take my students on community based activities. My mom, who is also a teacher (in the district), has always said if she ever won the lottery she would purchase a bus so that the school would never have to worry about paying over $200 for one trip. This truly limits what we are able to do. Our school isn’t close enough to any one place to walk — we are only close to large, busy streets!
Kimberly Rotter, formerly at String Theory Charter, wants greater curriculum and teaching flexibility
One viewpoint is being presented. One idea is becoming the standardization of thought. We are now being asked as teachers to teach in exactly the same manner. One size doesn’t fit all. One teacher might be better as a public speaker. One teacher might be better with technology.
Joshua Block, Science Leadership Academy, wants to see visits from lawmakers
We need the resources and the conditions that allow us to build school communities that nurture, challenge, and inspire. Government officials should visit schools, hear from educators and students, and support a holistic vision of education.
Susan Gobreski, executive director of Education Voters Institute in Pennsylvania, wants resource equity
Every child needs to be getting the same classroom experience, making sure each one gets the same amount of time with the teacher and with arts as their peers and having current material. Every kid must have access to the same resources that support their education. We know not every kid will take advantage of every opportunity in the same way, but right now we’re not even giving kids the same opportunities.