This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Since the state’s “costing-out” study revealed that most Pennsylvania school districts are underfunded, Philadelphia Student Union (PSU) has pushed for more dollars in these areas, enlisting the help of students statewide.
Earlier this year, PSU held workshops in Harrisburg and at Upper Merion Middle School to raise awareness about funding inequalities and to shed light on the link between lack of resources and school violence. PSU also traveled to the Norristown Police Athletic League to drum up support for equitable funding.
“Underfunding of schools is structural violence [because] it’s when an institution or system as a whole does things to hurt people,” said PSU member Justin Carter.
About 10 students attended each workshop, contributing thoughts like, “We do want an education…but when you don’t provide us with the stuff we need, what are we supposed to do?”
Carter said the larger goal of the workshops is to link its work on equitable school funding with its Campaign for Nonviolent Schools to create a statewide network of youth working to address both issues.
PSU works for safer schools with a coalition of eight citywide organizations. Participants have conducted marches, two peaceful flash mobs, and student-led training of school security guards to create a space that facilitates dialogue and explores the root causes of negative interactions.
“We were involved in training 18 veteran school police officers across the District, and this year we hope to implement this training in schools and monitor its impact on climate,” said PSU Executive Director Nijmie Dzurinko.
A Nonviolent Student Summit is planned for November.