School Crisis: Not Just a Problem for Parents

Philadelphia's inability to finance its future has me weighing my options.

In Sunday’s Inquirer, Brian Hackford, a 41-year-old Philly father of three says that he is divorcing the city, citing irreconcilable differences over public education.

Hackford, based in the Roxborough section, has been living in Philadelphia since 1995.

Like in any strong relationship, the courtship process never stops. It’s logical, of course, for parents to continue to evaluate the ability of a city to provide a quality education for their children. For many parents who lack either desire or means to shell out cash for private and parochial schooling, education is a relationship deal breaker between families and cities.

But what about the rest of us?

I’m a 28-year-old Philadelphia native, taking up residence in Overbrook Farms, and I, too, have a tumultuous relationship with my hometown. I’m starting to think it may be time once again for us to see other people.

See, we’ve broken up once before, first because I found it to be inflexible and stubborn, exemplified by its niche specialized job markets like higher education and medicine. When I left Philadelphia for Washington, D.C., I wanted something more worldly and sophisticated; someone who appreciated life after 2 a.m.

Of course, you never forget your first love. So after a courtship with our nation’s capital, and a tryst with The City That Never Sleeps, I came back to the city that loved me first. It’s been nice being here and remembering what we had. But we still have our issues.

As I approach 30, I’m getting an itch to plant some roots. Though I currently have no children of my own, I, too, see the city’s public school system as a big hurdle in our relationship. What I want simply seems like more that the city is willing – or able – to provide.

I have been evaluating my future and Philadelphia’s place in it. The city’s money troubles are becoming a stress in our relationship. Even with all of our nostalgia, it’s not the same bombastic blue-collar place I knew. It looks tired, worn. I see it struggle to take care of itself, and wonder how it could ever take care of me. Or the children.

Just last week, Philadelphia had to borrow $50 million to open schools on time on Sept. 9. And even with the schools in operation, there will be staff cuts and slashes to extracurricular activities and other programs.

This is how the city plans to raise our future leaders.

It goes without saying, but education is a predictor for quality-of-life outcomes. Education and literacy are predictors of higher levels of socio-economic achievement, which also correlates to better health outcomes, greater levels of wealth acquisition, and lower crime rates.

These are issues for communities. Not just parents.

Surely others have had the same idea. Sure, pricey Center City neighborhoods have had a bit of a population boost, but what about me?! My friends have been badmouthing the city for years, and have gone to begin anew with Raleigh, New York, San Francisco, and Chicago. I envy their new relationships when they tell me about how cultured their new cities are and how different and unique their time is together.

I’m not sure I know the real Philadelphia anymore. I’m not sure I want to stick around to see who it is becoming. And while hurts to think about leaving for good, it may be time to seriously start to weigh my options.