This past Monday, June 21, several hundred people marched from Samuel Gompers Elementary School, in the Winfield section of Philadelphia to Lower Merion Elementary School across City Line Avenue. The march’s distance of 1.5 miles belied the glaring funding disparities between these two schools. At the end of the march, Councilwoman Helen Gym reminded the audience of a similar march that she had participated in twenty years earlier.
My God! I was on that march – from the Wallingford-Swarthmore school district to Chester-Upland. Same objective. Same modus operandi. And the reminder of Einstein’s (at least it has been attributed to him) quote that “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”
It doesn’t need to be that way, however, and here’s why. Obviously, the students in these districts are the real victims of this inequity, and, given the chance, are the ones who are most likely to vote for political candidates who will represent their best interests. Currently there are more kids going to underfunded schools (according to the state’s funding formula) in Pennsylvania than not, and almost every legislative district in the state has at least one underfunded school district. Every year, about 70,000 students in these schools turn eighteen.
Now what if there were an actual policy in these districts to offer voter education and registration in the schools? Some readers may be surprised that such policies do not exist throughout Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts, but the truth is that such policies are rare across the United States.
There are strong indications, however, that such a policy will be introduced In Philadelphia this coming fall. Such a policy would integrate nicely into the current Civics curriculum required under Pennsylvania law, and through the efforts of Tom Quinn at PA Youth Vote (formerly Philly Youth Vote), voter education and registration is currently taking place in many Philadelphia high schools. What is needed however, is a uniform, district-wide policy to enable every eligible student the opportunity to vote.
Mr. Quinn has drafted such a policy that the district will use as a model. What we need now is volunteers to help make this policy a reality.
Here is what you can do:
Testify before the School Board of Philadelphia. The board meets once a month. The schedule for these meetings is: July 15, August 19, and September 23. To register, go to: tinyurl.com/PhillySchoolBoardSpeaker
Write a letter. For the Inquirer, (Inquirer.Letters@phillynews.com) Max 150 words
Write an op-ed. For the Inquirer, Op-eds are reviewed by Erica Palan (email@example.com) and Elena Gooray (firstname.lastname@example.org) Max 650 words
Don’t know what to say? Here are some of the previous testimonies on the topic.