Sept. 20, 2018 - Sylvia P. Simms' Testimony Before the Philadelphia Board of Education - Educational Opportunities for FamiliesEducational Opportunities for Families

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Sept. 20, 2018 – Sylvia P. Simms’ Testimony Before the Philadelphia Board of Education

Good evening school board members, Dr. Hite, District staff, families and community members.

My name is Sylvia P. Simms and I am the Executive Director of Educational Opportunities for Families (EOF).  We are a grassroots organization made up of families and stakeholders all across Philadelphia, united by the belief that access to a great school should not be determined by a child’s home address. Today, in our city there are 20,000 children who are stuck in schools that are not educating them.

We’re in crisis, and it’s time to ask:  What does the District intend to do for these children?

After years of inaction by the District and generations of students who have been failed by our public schools, Philadelphia families have waited long enough for improvements and we won’t wait any longer.  At EOF, we intend to speak for the children trapped in failing schools and give a voice to the communities which have been neglected by District and City officials.

We believe that every family in the City of Philadelphia, regardless of race or income, in entitled to:

  • Great schools that prepare our children for a successful future. For wealthy and well-connected, there are many high-quality school options.  But there aren’t high-quality options for children from low-income families who are stranded in failing public schools.  They can’t afford to wait any longer;
  • End geographic segregation of our schools (Neighborhood Schools and the cherry-picked boundaries that define them (aka catchment areas);
  • A simple and fair enrollment system that’s easy to access. Let’s stop basing access to a good public school on where you live, who you know or how well you can work the system; and
  • Effective School Advisory Councils (SAC) in every school, so that all families can have a voice in the future of their children’s schools.

These entitlements are part of the Philadelphia Families’ Bill of Rights, which more than 2,500 families and allies have signed as a show of support for a more equitable public education system in our city.

The truth is that Philadelphia’s public school system pits the HAVES against the HAVE NOTS, and it’s no surprise that the HAVES – the families whose children are attending high-performing schools – want to maintain the status quo.

At some point though, we have to ask ourselves: Would you send your child or your grandchild to a school that has been failing students for generations?

The answer, of course, is NO.  So, what are you going to do, today, for the families who currently have no other option but to send their children to those schools?

We need more parents, more families to join the fight for BETTER SCHOOLS.

And I ask, as a former member of the SRC, a community advocate and, most importantly, as a grandparent of student in Philadelphia’s public school system… How much longer will the poor children in our city be forced to wait for the right to attend a quality public school?  Thank you.


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