Humble Contributions to the Peoples' History

Posts tagged ‘WPrightnow’

Disastrous Financial Priorities and a Community Mourns

School Nurses Forewarn the District

Outside the Philadelphia School headquarters, on a cold January day in 2012, a gathering of school nurses, bundled up against the chilling wind, protested the district’s laying off nurses. The nurses, calling themselves the Occupy 440 movement, continued the protest for five months, assembling every Wednesday at 440 Board Street. The district cut over 100 school nurse jobs in the 2011-12 school year, and other staff reductions left schools at the state minimum of one nurse per 1,500 students. According to The Notebook, “Nurses warned that the District was potentially endangering children by failing to have trained medical staff in buildings most of the time.”

Betsey Piette carries poster Picture of Laporshia.

Betsey Piette carries picture of Laporshia.

Vigil for Laporshia

Samir Robinson from Musicopia plays for the Vigil

Samir Robinson from Musicopia plays through the Mist

Just 17 months later, the nurses organized a candlelight vigil for Laporshia Massey, who arrived home from her school, Bryant Elementary, suffering from an asthma attack and dying later that evening at Children’s Hospital. Laporshia fell ill during school the day, reportedly complaining of difficulty breathing. At that time, no nurse had been on duty at the school.

Father, Nurses, Youth

Laporshia’s father, Daniel Burch (holding umbrella) stands with school nurses, who organized the vigil.

Austerity Cuts Deep

Pennsylvania Governor Corbett and the Republican-controlled legislature have imposed substantial education cuts throughout the state, causing the School District of Philadelphia to fall into a deep financial crisis. The Governor failed to release $45 million of federal funding earmarked for Philadelphia schools. While evoking the concept of “shared sacrifice” to justify cuts in education, in contrast, the legislature passed a corporate tax cut that would cost the state $600-800 million per year, more than double Philadelphia schools’ deficit for the next fiscal year. In addition, the district carries an enormous debt. According to City Paper,

The district spends more than ten times the national average serving its debt, with an astonishing $280 million—12 percent of its entire budget—going to interest payments and $161 million going to Wall Street firms in what have been called “toxic” interest rate swaps, under criticism in other cities for unjustly robbing schools of resources.

Girl With Candle CRChildren’s Health at Risk

When authorities cut school nurses from budgets, children who have health problems may not receive proper treatment while at school. Children on medications may have to rely on untrained staff to assist them. Children with epilepsy, ADHD, diabetes, food allergies and asthma are particularly at risk. The question arises is who is responsible for schools’ record keeping on each child’s health concerns if no nurse is present to evaluate a student who becomes ill during the school day. AFT President Randi Weingarten wrote in an open letter to Pennsylvania Governor Corbett that one in five students in Philadelphia have asthma, and that “parents and educators—would sleep easier knowing their children’s schools had enough school nurses, guidance counselors, safety personnel and support staff so that a tragedy like this would not befall another child.”

Ironically, a day before the candlelight vigil for Laporshia, the district learned that Philadelphia will receive the $45 million in federal funds that Corbett had been withholding. A spokesman for Corbett stated that the release of the funds and Laporshia’s death were not connected. Philadelphia school superintendent, William Hite, stated he did not plan to rehire any nurses because the district has “met the state’s caseload standard.” Are parents left wondering whether there will be another time the school nurses will be holding candles outside the 440 Building?


An Empty Desk

Bryand ES Final

Bryant Elementary School is located at the corners of Cedar Avenue and 60th Street in West Philadelphia. Playground equipment stands securely on one corner of the school lot, and along the walls of the brick building, colorful murals illustrate scenes of children swinging, dancing and jumping rope.

While economists, bureaucrats and government officials argue the merits austerity measures, one mural might be different now.


Her Name is Laporshia Massey and Our Hearts are Breaking

Justice for Laporshia Massey Update

Vigil for Laporshia Massey – Victim of Philly Schools Budget Cuts

The Great Austerity Shell Game

Sick Days: The Philadelphia School Nurse Shortage

Doomsday Plan Could Wreck the Regional Rail Lines in SE PA

Update: November 20, 2013, Pennsylvania House voted 104-95 to give key preliminary approval to the $2.4 billion transportation funding program.

Passengers on

A Ticket to Ride

Last evening as I was boarding the Media-Elwin Regional Rail at the 15th Street Station, I watched as passengers streamed onto the train filling up the seats and then standing in the aisles. It seemed incredulous to me that considering both the crisis of global warming and the thousands of riders who depend on public transportation, that SEPTA (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority) has presented a “doomsday” proposal to shut down the Elwin-Media line, as well as closing eight other regional rail lines.

Market St Station

Will deserted stations become the norm?

During the Pennsylvania State Transportation Committee hearing held at Temple University on September 12, 2013, SEPTA General Manager Joseph M. Casey stated that these changes would affect 89,000 daily transportation users. Yet, just two months ago, SEPTA announced an all-time high in regional rail ridership. Passengers made over 36 million trips in a year’s time, including 2.9 million on the Media-Elwyn line.

Leaving Staton

Leaving the Wallingford Station

Commuter Nightmare

The hardships created by such a shutdown are almost immeasurable. People with disabilities, senior citizens, and those unable to afford an automobile would be prevented from getting to their jobs and medical appointments. Paratransit service for the handicapped would be reduced. Students requiring transportation into the city from the Western suburbs would find it difficult to get to Penn, Temple and Drexel, and the 31 other universities in the city and surrounds. The young man sitting next to me was studying a medical textbook. Trains allow time for people to study, read, socialize or just relax, which is totally unavailable to automobile commuters. Increased car traffic would add to the congestion on our already crowded highways. Economic losses would befall Philadelphia as suburbanites rely on public transportation to bring them into the city for volunteer work, cultural activities and special events. Philadelphia could lose 60,000 jobs. According to a study released by SEPTA, home values would drop if Regional Rail service would be cancelled.

The average property value premium for houses located in counties is $7,900. Homes in communities with higher levels of Regional Rail service and parking capacity, the property value premium averages between $31,000 and $37,000 per house.

Ticket Office Closed

Closed Ticket Windows . . . the future for Delaware County Riders?

Funding Held Up in State House

Without funding from the state for SEPTA’s backlog of critical repair work to the tune of $6.5 billion, the Authority will have to significantly shrink the transit system over the next 10 years, SEPTA General Manager Joseph M. Casey reported during his testimony at the hearing. Four trestles, which are over 100 years old, need significant repairs. Unless Pennsylvania legislators approve this funding, commuter citizens will be held hostage by the politics of the State. A small minority of state legislators are set against it as lawmakers wrangle over funding allowances and tax increases. Currently, the bill is held up in the Republican-led house.


Cuts will cause layoff of hundreds of SEPTA employees.

Citizens Rally for Transportation

Delaware County citizens have been rallying support for SEPTA funding. A Swarthmore college student started an on-line petition and has collected over 3,200 signatures so far. At a press conference on October 18 at the Media Courthouse, (Former) Governor Rendell, standing with local Democrats as well as a few Republicans, expressed his objections to the possible closure of the Media-Elwyn line. Rendell encouraged supporters to support the passage of SB-1, the transportation bill that’s been proposed to fund SEPTA.

Protest at Media Courthouse

Protest at Media Courthouse

Rendell addressed the crowd stating,

There are 37 counties with transportation systems in Pennsylvania and all of them would benefit, in my opinion by the bill. The bill would have produced $400 million dollars a year annually for public transportation . . . something that is desperately needed, something in the past we wouldn’t be talking about closing the Media-Elwin line, we wouldn’t be talking about cutbacks not here in Delaware County . . . we should actually be talking about improving public transit.


Former Governor Rendell speaks to demonstrators.

End of the Line?

Later that week, after returning from Philadelphia on the Media-Elwin line, I watched as our train left the Wallingford station, fading into the darkness. I wondered if concerned citizens can rally lawmakers so that our public transportation does not disappear from sight.

Shakey Train

Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: