Sometimes, when I look out upon the City of Philadelphia, I see the words of famed poet, writer and playwright, Langston Hughes, “So I hope the day is coming, when there won’t be any more. Houses where the steps are creaking, and rats gnaw at the floors, and a dozen names are sticking, in each doorbell at the doors.” While Hughes spoke of a different city — of the city he loved, I apply his words to this city — the city I love, Philadelphia.
For, you see, each aspect of a city is multifaceted and intertwined. Jobs and the economy influence public safety which influences health and welfare, all of which influence education. In other words, neither the success nor the failure of a student rests solely on their shoulders; it is up to all of us to provide them with the best possible environment and with the best possible tools to succeed. So when Hughes’ hope of a city where stairs don’t creak and where each house is a home comes true, we know that each student will be a scholar.
But we, the City of Philadelphia City Council Committee on Education, know that achieving Hughes’ hope will take much work. We know there is much work to do because in the past few months we have held 11 briefings and hearings concerning educational issues, including but not limited to: budget and finance; school nurses; school safety and zero-tolerance; arts and culture; catchment areas; vacant buildings; special education; English Language Learners (ELL) and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL); charter school policy and charter school expansion; student and school achievement, including the School Performance Index (SPI) and Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP); governance and restructuring of the School District of Philadelphia; and School Reform Commission and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania legislation relevant to our schools. In addition, members of the Committee on Education attended countless meetings and informational sessions at 440 N. Broad St. and other locations throughout the city.
We thank the students. They are what we all are fighting for. They are the future of the city. They are Hughes’ hope.
I look towards the future graciously resolute. Shortly, the City Council Committee on Education will disseminate a comprehensive report on the state of education in our fair city.
Thank you. Have a wonderful, blessed day.
Jannie Blackwell is a Philadelphia City Councilwoman.