The School District That Stole Christmas

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I’m sure many of you may be seeing this and saying, “OK–now they might be going a little far.” I don’t see it that way. Over the course of two weeks, we have been addressing the elephant in the room. Parents are speaking up and addressing the elephant in the room. That elephant simply represents poor Black and Brown families that are not getting the education they deserve. The families being mistreated and subjected to educational standards and resources that many “advocates” would never want for themselves or their children. Many of them don’t subject their children to that even though they would have you believe this pain is germane to them.  

School Districts have been stealing Christmas from many families long before they knew they actually realized they were doing that. Philadelphia is not exempt. The district has ruined many Christmases long before it knew it had. The school district has stolen a few Christmases this year. Christmas has become so commercialized, but one thing is a constant: It’s the season of giving. It is also a season of spending. It is no secret that many of the families in the school district of Philadelphia are living at or below the poverty line. It is more of a dream than a reality for them to be able to buy without remorse.

So some may still be asking how has the school district of Philadelphia stolen Christmas? Let’s discuss.

Philadelphia, like many large school districts, has let themselves become more concerned with politics rather than doing the right thing. In 2014, the district opened the charter application process for the first time in years. It is no secret MANY of the schools in Philadelphia are failing Black and Brown families. You had players like the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) and recently elected Gov. Tom Wolf politicizing the process and requesting no new options be opened up. Yet it was very clear that 80% of the children in district schools were FAILING. The same actors have failed families and communities for decades. Why restrict newer options? Why limit positive impacts? Many members of the SRC caved to the demands of the political players and voted down futures. They left families in struggling schools who aren’t equipped to prepare students to have a productive future. How many of those students will slip through the cracks? I’m going to stick with the district average 80%. Think about this. In a class of 30 students, 24 will fall through the cracks! That means 24 will possibly never live up to their potential. You have impacted their future for years to come. How many possible great Christmas stories were lost on February 18, 2015?

Wait. That is the norm when it comes to tackling education in Philly. Wait. It’s coming. Things are going to change. First, we need to hire this person. Just wait. We need this kind of new governance. Just wait. We need another series of meetings that will last a year. Just wait. The school district of Philadelphia has long been telling families to wait on change. Wait on better. How many years have families been waiting? We don’t stop aging. There were families who waited. They watched for years the toll of the bad education had on their student’s future. They knew somewhere along the road that the student graduating high school would be the highest academic accomplishment they would reach. They stopped seeing a future beyond high school for their child. It’s not that these families didn’t want that but they waited and saw their child receive a bad education. It is almost impossible to move your student to a different school. The good schools are filled up and newer seats are given to students who have better grades. And what about the families whose child is struggling and they want to help? They waited, years, for nothing to happen. Now their student is grown and not making the income they could have made had the District stop telling them to wait and acted! What kind of Christmas story is not happening in many of the families in poor Black and Brown families? How many times did these families listen to a child ask for a toy that they knew they could not buy?

While I could go on, I’ll move to my last point. The school district of Philadelphia spent years ignoring the crisis. The crisis that we face today in education is nothing new. A lot of the same problems existed in the 90s as did when the SRC was formed in the early 2000s. Now the SRC can be voted away but that still doesn’t fix the crisis. The crisis has been the same for years: The public options for poor Black and Brown kids in Philly have failed multiple generations of children. Lean into change. The school district has known this. They have to do the statistics. There have been many studies done. So how can it be the needle has barely moved towards improvement?! Because the crisis isn’t a crisis for everyone. As long as the crisis is not in the space of decision makers, there is no need to move quickly on it. Sad. Families don’t want to live like this. Families don’t want to guess about their futures. Families want to be confident that the education they receive in their neighborhood is sufficient and will open up a plethora of doors. As it stands, families will see more roadblocks than highways towards success. And in the spirit of this post, more families will never get the Christmas stories they want and deserve because the school district took that away from them years before they ever knew it.

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