The Community Connection

Students seek fair funding action

- By Kishan Patel and Jimi Chavalapor­n To state Sen. Bob Mensch, Kishan Patel is a 2021 Pottstown graduate. Jimi Chavalapor­n is a Pottstown High School senior. Both serve as school board student representa­tives.

We are writing to you on behalf of our fellow students in Pottstown School District and in underfunde­d districts across the state.

We all know the problem: More than half of Pennsylvan­ia students and 80% of black and brown students are given less than their fair share of state education dollars. Here in Pottstown, where 67% of our peers are students of color and 68% are economical­ly disadvanta­ged, we have been shortchang­ed by nearly $4,000 per student each year.

While we love our school district and are full of Pottstown pride, we can not overlook how the lack of funding has impacted our education. We are experienci­ng irreversib­le harm caused by the state’s broken funding system. That harm is both academic and social-emotional in nature. We are in dire need of the proper funding to provide the educationa­l opportunit­ies and support that we currently lack.

One significan­t negative effect of being underfunde­d is the high rate of teacher turnover. Since teachers in our school district are among the lowest paid in the region, many extremely qualified and impactful teachers


Chavalapor­n leave. In middle school I, Kishan, remember having three different science teachers/substitute­s and overall that was the class I struggled with the most. I could not form a bond or connection with any teacher, so I was uncomforta­ble to ask any questions. I learned close to nothing in that class, and it made me question my love for science.

For another example, I vividly recall the day my band director sat down with a sigh and said he had some news. A gulp formed at the bottom of my throat as he never talked to us like that before. He announced he was leaving the school district since it was the best decision for his family. I blankly stared at him for what seemed like hours until I came to grips with reality. I realized firsthand that my zip code not only controlled the ability of many teachers to stay in the district but also the quality of my education.

Additional­ly, there is a strong need for guidance counselors. When I, Jimi, moved to Pottstown, I had a tough time transition­ing into the new school environmen­t. I witnessed negative interactio­ns and altercatio­ns and had a difficult time embracing my new school community. My school’s guidance office was often the place where I went to and felt the most comfortabl­e. However, due to there being only two guidance counselors for a school that had close to 1000 students, most of whom come from economical­ly disadvanta­ged or troubled homes, the guidance office was often packed. When there was time for me to meet with my counselor, she seemed swamped with loads of cases to handle. I felt I had to rush with expressing whatever my concerns were. It made me begin to question if my needs would be able to be fully addressed.

We are sure you agree that students in Pottstown, and all around Pennsylvan­ia, should have the teachers and counselors they need to have a successful education and to feel supported in their school environmen­t. We also know this requires fair funding.

You previously said, “School districts like Pottstown show that the state needs to have a greater urgency in achieving full implementa­tion of the new school funding formula.”

With that in mind and the news of a state budget surplus of 3 billion dollars, we believe the opportunit­y to close the equity gap for students like us is here! We are calling on you to back up your previous words with action and utilize 1.15B of these funds to bring shortchang­ed districts up to an equitable level of funding.

We want positive change to propel Pottstown schools to the next level — to ultimately take advantage of the same opportunit­ies that surroundin­g, well-funded districts have. It is our hope that you and your fellow legislator­s carry out the moral duty to equitably fund all Pennsylvan­ia students. We will certainly be waiting, watching, and will continue advocating for the fair funding we deserve.

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