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Philadelphia schools have long grappled with funding disparities that have not only hindered the quality of education provided to students, but also the working environments of its teachers.
To better understand the issue, Need in Deed, a Philadelphia based teaching network, hosted their first ever Education Equity Forum to allow for an open discussion among community members, educators and parents on Monday night from 6 to 8 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church of Germantown.
The forum was held the day before Gov. Josh Shapiro unveiled the budget for the 2024-25 fiscal year, proposing a significant increase in education funding in Philadelphia. About $872 million of the $1.1 billion education funding increase would go toward low-income schools, a proposal which has gained support from public school advocates and teachers’ unions.
This proposal was fueled by a 2014 Pennsylvania Supreme Court lawsuit that claims the governor and other legislative leaders and education officials failed to uphold constitutional obligations that provide fair and equitable education for students in lower-income Pa. school districts.
The event began with an “informed investigation” led by Need in Deed teachers Kate Collier, Yalon-Dirickson-Martin, PhD, and Emily Goedde, PhD, and social studies specialist for the School District of Philadelphia, Tyra Washington. The investigation allowed for community members to read and discuss the article by Roseann Liu, PhD, published in the Philadelphia Inquirer, which explores how racial disparities in school funding are not a matter of “bad policy” but a lack of value in children’s lives.
“Racial inequity in school funding is not, primarily, a problem rooted in poor policy making; it is a problem rooted in the differential valuing of children’s lives,” Liu writes in the article. “Those who reject the premise that certain children are worthy of greater educational investment because of the color of their skin should also reject the delay tactics of Republican lawmakers.”
An open panel moderated by Debbie Wei, social studies curriculum specialist for the district, featured the contributions of Need-in-Deed Executive Director Kyra Atterbury, Councilmember Kendra Brooks, Roseann Liu, PhD, professor of Educational Studies and Asian American Studies at Swarthmore College, and Erika Kitzmiller, PhD, term assistant professor in education at Barnard College.
Discussions included race versus class within education equity in the commonwealth, budget and funding disparities, program cuts and holding elected officials accountable in enforcing equitable funding.