school in column sj

School is in session. Futures are at stake.

PUBLIC SCHOOL is in session in Philadelphia, and the hopes of a generation will hang in the balance.

It is a generation of children that comes from the Philadelphia we don’t talk about. For them, the papal visit won’t matter, because it won’t change the fact that many of them live in poverty. Nor will it change the fact that they’ve been relegated to a school system that is under significant strain.

These children – 203,000 of them if you count public charter schools – are stuck in a school district with a proposed 2015 budget of $3.1 billion. Yet the reality for too many of our children is that the school buildings are dirty, the books are old and their best teachers are leaving in frustration.

Don’t believe it? Pennypacker Elementary, my neighborhood school, is on its third principal in three years. And while I know there are caring teachers at the school – I’ve worked with them while volunteering – I also know that it’s hard to gain traction without good leadership. And it’s hard to keep leaders when educators are held responsible for failures they didn’t cause.

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Illustration by Richard Harrington

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