COUNCILMEMBER GYM STATEMENT ON FAIR FUNDING TRIAL AHEAD OF PHILADELPHIA TESTIMONY

In Council News, Helen Gym, News by PHL Council

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“This is not a fight being waged solely in courtrooms, but in classrooms each and every day”

PHILADELPHIA — Today, City Councilmember Helen Gym (At Large) issued the following statement regarding the Fair Funding trial as Philadelphia witnesses and officials prepare to testify this week:

“This week, the lived experiences of Philadelphia students and educators will come into focus in the landmark trial for fair education funding across our Commonwealth. The powerful case laid forth by the plaintiffs has demonstrated the severe harm inflicted on our most vulnerable communities by the legislature’s unfair and unconstitutional funding model for education. And in few places is this more apparent than in Philadelphia, the poorest large city in the country. That’s why I’m heading to Harrisburg this week — to stand in solidarity with the generations of school children, including my own, who have entered, risen through, and graduated from grossly underfunded schools.

“This trial is the culmination of more than a decade’s worth of effort by countless partners who I’ve been proud to organize and work alongside. And as a founder of Parents United for Public Education, I helped lead and write an amicus brief in support of this case because we lived through the consequences of inadequate funding with our children every day. While the promise of a thorough education is constitutionally guaranteed, the trial’s witnesses have demonstrated what our students and educators see every day: our state legislature is brutally failing to meet this mandate. We know that lifting up schools will lift up entire communities, and yet, the defense seems more fixated on questioning the importance of basic curricula and perpetuating cycles of economic inequality and compromised life outcomes for far too many Pennsylvania students.

“Let us remember that this is not a fight being waged solely in courtrooms, but in classrooms each and every day by our school communities. The cost has been carried by an entire generation of Pennsylvania students who have endured dilapidated facilities, crowded classrooms, extreme temperatures, lead and asbestos, few extracurricular offerings, and limited access to modern equipment and technology — all things which their peers in better-resourced, less-diverse districts have in abundance. And in this moment, the ongoing public health crisis has made these disparities even more apparent. Austerity budgets hollowed out the staff and resources our schools needed to provide the uninterrupted education our children deserve.

“This lawsuit will not single-handedly remedy all the inequities perpetuated by Pennsylvania’s unfair funding model — but it has the potential to fundamentally shift the paradigm in favor of fairness and to the benefit of our most vulnerable students. A ruling from the court in our favor will ensure the legislature can no longer ignore the voices of our poorest communities who are working hardest to provide educational opportunity, and bring transformative funding to districts across the Commonwealth, especially here in Philadelphia.”

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