PA Students, Families, and Advocates Can’t Hold It Much Longer

bathroomImage by David Rinehart

HARRISBURG, PA — With the trial in Commonwealth Court challenging the state’s school funding system happening in real time down the street from the Pennsylvania Capitol steps, Children First and Education Voters of Pennsylvania brought to life the testimony of Panther Valley superintendent, who testified that a kindergarten classroom in his district is operating under a 75:1 student to toilet ratio. Advocates, parents and students declared on Monday – these kids can’t hold it much longer.

With Pennsylvania ranked 45th in the nation in its share of school funding, rally attendees read 75 compelling quotes from the trial testimony that illustrate what is really happening in our underfunded school districts.

“We organized this rally after the startling testimony that a kindergarten class of 75 students must use just one toilet per 75 children,” said Donna R. Cooper, Executive Director, Children First. “Who could have imagined that a few days later, Greater Johnstown first grade teacher Stephanie Kobal would testify that the ratio at her districts is 125 students to one, single, toilet?

“Unacceptable.”

Joining Children First and Education Voters of PA were representatives from 24 different school districts in 13 counties, reading 75 shocking statements from the trial so far.

“Basic human needs must be met, if children are to learn,” said Konnie Serr, retired kindergarten, 1st and 3rd grade teacher from central PA. “We are here… because every child deserves to go to a school that meets their needs. It is past time for the state legislature to equitably fund our schools.”

“It was bad enough when lawyers representing legislative leaders said their only constitutional obligation to public school students is to open the doors and turn the lights on in their schools,” said Susan Spicka, Executive Director, Education Voters of Pennsylvania. “It was even worse when they said all school buildings aren’t the Taj Mahal, but that children have “chairs to sit in, desks or tables to write at, walls and roofs, working plumbing,” and “the fact that some students are better equipped to take advantage of opportunities offered or perhaps are more industrious doesn’t negate the fact that opportunities exist.”

“75 kindergarten students sharing one toilet is egregious. If we can’t even meet our student’s basic needs, we cannot provide them with a thorough or efficient education,” said Tomea Sippio-Smith, K-12 Education Policy Director, Children First. “The way we currently fund our schools is inadequate, inequitable, and unconstitutional.”

Children First and Education Voters of Pennsylvania have teamed up to make sure every voice is included in this historic conversation.  Follow Ron Twitter @ChildrenFirstPA, and @EdVotersPA and visit ThoroughAndEfficient.org for more ways to join the conversation.

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