‘School Play’ Highlights Lack of Education Funding in Pennsylvania


A play written about school funding has turned a political topic into a personal one.

Playwright Arden Kass used interviews from 100 students, teachers and politicians from 30 different communities across Pennsylvania to create a play, titled “School Play,” to promote the topic of school funding in the state after the efforts of 4,000 schoolchildren to restore education funding in the state fell on deaf ears.

Kass was one of the 20 parents to bring letters written by the schoolchildren, each asking for the restoration of education funding.  However, their efforts did not end well.

“The mothers were shocked at how callous the environment was, and, when they went to deliver these extraordinary words of children, how little currency they had,” said Donna Cooper, executive director of Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY), which helped with logistics. “Some of the women became activists on education as a result of that. Arden’s not an activist, though: She’s an artist.”

Kass said the situation became real for her when she discovered that her son would be learning Spanish from Rosetta Stone.  She added, “I got the idea that the only way to make people understand what this is all about is theater. Nothing else moves people in such an intellectual and emotional way.”

The play includes a number of situations currently going on in the school system all across the state, including an art room with no supplies, broken bathrooms, a heating system that needs fixing, and a science textbook that still reads “We hope to land a man on the moon someday.”

At the same time, students in the state are preparing for the implementation of the new Keystone Exams, three standardized tests that will are set to be a requirement for high school graduation, reports Laura Benshoff for NewsWorks.

Currently, just 65% of students in the Philadelphia School District graduate within four years.  However, district officials predict a large drop when the new exams are introduced.

“While our graduation rate remained steady last year, extrapolating from current seniors, only 22 percent of the Class of 2017 will graduate on time,” according to a report published by the district in January. That estimate is based on the number of current seniors on track to pass all three Keystone Exams and obtain the requisite class credits to graduate this spring.

Meanwhile, Governor Tom Wolf has been touring schools as part of his “Schools That Teach” program in a push for better education funding across the state.  He recently visited the Kensington Health Sciences Academy, learning about the specialized programs offered for students who want to be nurses and dentists.  The high school hopes to be the first in the state to offer pharmacy technician courses.

“The kids who we saw today are here because they want opportunity, and that’s nothing different than every other child in Pennsylvania wants,” the governor told reporters. “That’s nothing different. The only difference is that we’re not giving (other students) the resourcesthey need to follow through on that promise.”

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