ACTION United has been at the forefront for building a better PUBLIC education system in Philadelphia. In 2011 the Philadelphia School District was gutted with one billion dollars in budget cuts by Governor Corbett. These cuts had a catastrophic effect on the Philadelphia School District, causing 24 schools to close and reverberating through our education system today. The lack of funding directly caused the layoffs of 3,800 teachers and support staff in the fall of 2013, reduced teacher benefits, increased class sizes, and cut crucial school programs like art and sports.
We have been fighting to fund the district, stop private expansion of schools, and help to bridge the gap between parents in the community and the type of education that their children receive in school. We’ve done this through ACTION by rallying and organizing, ensuring that the Philadelphia government and the School Reform Commission hear the needs of the community and formulates a sound plan to revitalize our damaged schools.
Our Victories include:
- 2$ Cigarette Tax to Directly Fund Schools: On Sept. 24th, 2014 we successfully passed a 2$ per-pack cigarette tax that eased the weight of the overwhelming deficit Governor Corbett put the city in. We fought for months to get this approved as a last effort to fund the system through alternative means.
- Uncovering 34$ Million in Private School Fraud: In October of 2014, with the alliance of The Center for Popular Democracy, ACTION United held a press conference on charter school accountability. According to our research 34 MILLION dollars was defrauded from charter schools, most of that money coming directly from Philadelphia taxes. We held the culprits responsible by uncovering the data, hopefully deterring future fraud from taking place.
- Occupy the School District: In February of 2015, ACTION United occupied the School Reform Commission’s (SRC) public forum on creating new Charter Schools. With the threat of building 39 new private schools that would have plummeted the district into deeper debt, we were able to stop the meeting through our action. Along with our allies, we were able to restrict new charter expansion to only four schools.
- Funding PA Schools: In 2015 Governor Corbett was overtaken by Tom Wolf, the new governor. Through rallying at Harrisburg and lobbying at his office, ACTION United was able to influence the 2016 PA Budget. Wolf’s budget calls for an increase in the K-12 funding line by $400 million and special education funding by $100 million. He also proposed using $120 million to enroll 14,000 additional children in pre-kindergarten programs. In total the proposed budget will decrease the outrageous deficit the district has accrued since 2011.
Even though we have made giant strides in aiding the failing school district, there is still a long way to go. Philadelphia schools still face a giant deficit of over 80 million dollars, and we must do more in order to ensure a quality education for our youth in this city. Quality education doesn’t only mean teachers and support staff being present at school, but also programs that expand the minds of our children as well as extracurricular activities to fulfill and empower our young people.