High School Seniors: We Are Suffering Through This Pandemic. Don’t Make Underclassmen Suffer A Second Pandemic When Schools Reopen

We are members of the Class of 2020. In the last few weeks, you’ve heard about us as the class who won’t get to go to prom, throw a senior prank, or share a normal graduation with our classmates and families. These things are true, but more importantly, you should know us as the class that started kindergarten in 2007, the year the Great Recession hit. We have been living with the consequences ever since.

In Philadelphia, this means that we have spent much of our education in classrooms with too many students, in schools without enough nurses and counselors, and under roofs that leak and may be contaminated with environmental hazards. In our specific experience, we have faced classrooms that lacked supplies, libraries without books, and a district with little available technology for students.

Despite these challenges, we have made it through. And we were proud to be leaving a better and stronger public education system behind us. After significant work and advocacy by our school communities, district leaders, and elected officials, public education in Philadelphia is on the rise.

Our school system is no longer in fiscal distress. The district has been slowly restoring staffing levels. Across Philadelphia, the academic performance of our public schools is starting to improve. And the district was once again about to have a balanced budget that would allow for more investments in our schools. But this is now all in serious jeopardy due to the projected financial impact of COVID-19.

» READ MORE: Are Philly schools waiting too long to get students online after the coronavirus closures?

We don’t have the full financial picture yet, but the district is already expected to lose $60 million before July, and Mayor Jim Kenney has made clear statements that he expects next year’s city budget to be dire. So at this critical moment, we are asking our Philadelphia community to honor the Class of 2020 by ensuring that tomorrow’s public education students do not experience the educational hardships that we have lived. They deserve better.

» READ MORE: The pandemic has upended education for all children. For those with disabilities, the challenges are greater.

In honor of the Class of 2020, here is what we ask our Philadelphia community (including board members, teachers, students, parents, and families) to do to safeguard the education of all future classes:

Write to the governor and your state legislators today and tell them that education funding is too important to cut.

Tell them not to send our schools backward. The state must continue to fund education at its current level and send federal stimulus funding directly to schools and districts.

Finally, tell them about a public education student you know, and why their educational future is too important to jeopardize.

This was originally written and published in the Philadelphia Inquirer by Doha Ibrahim and Imere Williams. Doha Ibrahim is a senior at Lincoln High School and is a student representative on the Philadelphia Board of Education. Imere Williams is a senior at Boys’ Latin of Philadelphia and is a student representative on the Philadelphia Board of Education.

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