To Members of the Philadelphia Student Union: You Must Speak Out Against Truancy

by Christopher Paslay


On Thursday, October 2nd, two dozen members of the Philadelphia Student Union gathered on the steps of Masterman High School to voice their displeasure over the perceived lack of attention being paid to students’ concerns during contract negotiations between the School Reform Commission and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (“Phila. students voice concerns on teacher pact,” Inquirer, Friday, 10/3).


Candace Carter, a senior at Sayre High School, stated, “Although we have a lot at stake in the teachers’ contract, there is no way for us to know whether or not our concerns are being addressed.”


A major concern for members of the Student Union is teacher equity, and the fact that some of Philadelphia’s lowest performing schools lack educators who meet No Child Left Behind’s standard of “highly qualified”. 


“I’ve seen students cut class and come to my classroom to avoid bad teachers,” said Finesse Davis, a senior at Overbrook High.  “The system of teacher distribution in Philadelphia is broken.”


It’s wonderful to see our city’s students fighting for a stake in their own education.  If these same teens approach their future careers with as much gusto and fervor, I’m sure they’ll all be extremely successful; I look forward to hearing good things from them.


To address their main concern, teacher equity, I’d like to state that I agree with them whole heartedly.  Philadelphia’s lowest performing schools desperately need highly qualified educators.  Teachers and the school district must come together to find ways to attract highly qualified teachers to failing schools, as well as retain the ones they already have.


With that said, failing schools also need help from parents and the community, as well as from the students themselves. 


Members of the Student Union must raise their voices and bring public awareness to other issues as well. 


Student truancy is a great place to start.  According to the Department of Human Services, more than 12,000 Philadelphia public school children are absent from school on any given day.  Student Union members must put pressure on their peers not to skip school or cut classes; Finesse Davis might want to suggest to her friends that cutting class is a bad idea, no matter what her friends’ opinions of their teachers might be.


The Philadelphia Student Union must also put pressure on their own parents (and parents of their peers), to get more involved in their educations.  Parental involvement in the Philadelphia School District is tragically low.


I wish members of the Student Union much success with their fight to bring teacher equity to Philadelphia public schools.  If they can rally to get their peers (as well as their own moms and dads) to take their educations more seriously, I’m sure a more equal distribution of teachers in low performing schools will soon follow.

2 thoughts on “To Members of the Philadelphia Student Union: You Must Speak Out Against Truancy

  1. Hi, my name’s Dan Jones and I’m a member of the Student Union and one of the students who helped plan the action of Thursday. Thank you so much for your support, I’m glad you understand the point that we were trying to make.

    As far as truancy and “taking education more seriously” goes, PSU definitely agrees with you that it is a serious problem that so many students are “truant” and that an even scarier statistic is the District’s 50% dropout rate. We’ve also recognized the severe lack of community input and involvement in education and in policy decisions specifically.

    However, we argue that these things are not the fault of people, but rather of a broken system that is failing everyone, from students to parents to teachers to community members at large. Students don’t take their education seriously because they are treated like their education doesn’t matter. No one is born not wanting to learn, they have to have that love of learning crushed out of them by an oppressive system. We would also caution that the reason that so few parents and community members are involved in the District is that the District makes little to no effort to get them involved.

    With all of that said, Student Union offers students academic support in all major subject areas, as well as college access support for seniors. We also hold each other accountable in terms of performance in school. After all, if you’re failing a class, how can we justify taking you out to go to a rally or testify at an SRC meeting? We are extremely aware of the need for students to be involved in changing the system, but we also recognize the need for students to get through that system and hold each other accountable accordingly. Also, we have played an active role in getting the community more involved in District policy, especially around the Corrective Action II process.

    Thank you again for your support!!!

  2. Dan,

    Let me just say that I am very, very impressed by your comments. The Philadelphia Student Union is way ahead of the curve. Your response to my blog was so quick and so articulate, that you’ve inspired me. I’d like to address some of your points in today’s blog entry. Thank you for writing and hearing out my concerns.

    –Christopher Paslay

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