Election season is coming up, and while the mayoral forums will continue over the course of the month to elect historic Philadelphia’s 100th mayor. We asked WURD listeners to ask questions on what issues and policies matter most to them. This week, we asked listeners their questions for the candidates on public education for grades K-12. Listen to Wake Up With WURD Friday Oct. 13 and Oct. 27 to ask the questions you need answers to.
By Kiara Santos
Many parents are all too familiar with the permeating fear that their kids are going to asbestos-filled schools, they have no safe spaces to gather inside or outside their schools, and the opportunities offered to our school kids are diminishing right before our eyes.
As part of the Every Voice, Every Vote initiative, we inquired on behalf of listeners concerns to our mayoral candidates, Republican nominee David Oh and Democratic nominee Cherelle Parker.
David Oh is a Southwest Philadelphia native. He served three terms as an At-Large member of the Philadelphia City Council, becoming the first Asian-American to join the cohort, before resigning to join the mayoral race. He is the only Republican on the ballot.
Oh’s plan? He’s looking to retain school teachers to nourish their positions as role models of our next generation. As a former councilperson, Oh wants schools to reimburse teachers for their own out-of-pocket spending on school supplies. In a bill introduced in 2016, Oh proposed that the city create a fund for teachers who have paid for school supplies to apply for reimbursement. His belief when the bill was introduced was twofold: to give teachers financial relief from the heavy labor of working and to help accurately assess how much a classroom needs to thrive each year. “We’d have to have teachers who are fulfilled in what the meaning of teaching is to them. They need the autonomy to teach,” he said in an educational forum hosted by Elevate 215.
He believes teachers’ salaries should be increased; “When you look at where we are as a city…compared to the best education systems in the world, we are low-paying. We have to bring up the salaries. We have to bring up the expectation.” he adds.
He notes that donations that go to schools, made by parents or family, are not recorded. He wants to implement record keeping to truly acknowledge the efforts people do to keep our schools functioning.
He supports students learning a diverse set of skills – he believes in redefining curriculum to reflect diverse interests and career pathways. Not everybody wants to or does attend a college or university; Oh says the school curriculum should “encourage” what students decide what they want.
Oh plans to reinvent the qualifications for electing members of the Board of Education, reflecting what he calls in this forum “global best practices,” As mayor, he thinks the board members should be elected by local residents – breaking up sectors of the city to roughly five zones and residents electing the members themselves to understand communal needs. Typically, the board members are all appointed by the mayor.
Cherelle Parker is looking for education that is against the “divide and conquer” method that the city has set up with public and charter schools, she told Elevate 215.
Parker is a former City Council member representing the city’s 9th district (West Oak Lane, East Oak Lane, Olney, Lawncrest, Lawndale, Burholme and Oxford Circle). She is the youngest African-American woman to have been elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, where her tenure lasted 10 years.
Her most prominent rallying cry is for longer school days for children; she has proposed “closing no earlier than 6 p.m.” and year-round schooling. Her belief is that each parent should have the ability to earn a living wage while raising a family.
Her site calls for high schools to offer robust athletics, college courses in partnerships with universities, and apprenticeship programs in collaboration with Building Trades and touts her position as a former chairwoman of the Philadelphia delegation in Harrisburg. It states how she secured a plan to send the school district $148 million to prevent layoffs and other funding needs in 2013.
She wants to fix Philly’s schools through funding from the philanthropic and private sectors; Parker believes school revitalization should be through the help of all, and not just government on the local or federal level.
For Parker, some school buildings carry so much asbestos that they need to be torn down all together. In a forum hosted by Chalkbeat Philadelphia, she stated “it is unconscionable that we ask anybody, but especially children, teachers, and other workers to go to buildings with environmental, structural and other issues.”
She hopes the Board of Education members should all be like-minded and look towards the same goals. In the same Chalkbeat forum, Parker said she wants a superintendent and board that reflect “the diversity of the city, wields the passion for elevating our school system to the prominence that it could be, and whose primary priority is creating quality seats for all of Philadelphia’s students.”
Within the schools, she continues to tell Chalkbeat that she “would ensure that every district school has a certified librarian by drawing upon our funding streams and using my voice to amplify the need for them being more prevalent in our schools.”
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Written by: Associated Contributor