While the fiscal conservatives say that we must “tighten our belts” and “everyone must sacrifice,” the recent news that the Chester-Upland(PA) school district has run out of money and can no longer operate their schools is yet another example that the ones who sacrifice are those with the least to give up. (For those not familiar with PA, Chester is one of the poorest cities in the state, and is located 10 miles south of Philadelphia. Its school district depends heavily on state funds because more than 50% of the residents of Chester live below the poverty line.)The state of Pennsylvania is mandated by law to provide quality public education to all children in the state. Yet since becoming governor a year ago, Tom Corbett, has slashed spending on services to the poor, decreased the amount of money the state provides to low income school districts, refused to raise taxes on wealthy individuals and companies, and advocated vouchers so that money would be taken away from public schools. When Chester officials asked the state to intervene, the governor said “no” blaming them for “mismanagement” – yet another example of “blaming the victim”; believe me, no one is getting rich in Chester except Harrah’s Casino and PPL Park the home of the Philadelphia Union soccer team.
John Rawls, political philosopher whose work set the framework for the Great Society programs of the 60’s and 70’s, said that a society is judged by how it treats its most vulnerable. The moral vision that moved leaders on both sides of the political spectrum to set up social safety net for the poor and disabled caused them to see that the wealthiest society in the world could not allow any of its citizens to go uncared for. The callous disregard for basic needs such as health care, housing and education that began in the 1980’s under President Reagan and has increased to the present shows not only a social callousness but a loss of moral vision. That a state governor can disregard his legal mandate to provide education to the children of Chester, while refusing to levy taxes on gas companies reaping millions in Pennsylvania, only shows how far we have fallen.
If you are a PA resident I urge you to write your state representatives and call upon them to provide funding so that the children of Chester Upland can receive the quality education they are guaranteed by law to receive.