Parents Sue Over Philadelphia School Conditions
Seven Philadelphia parents and the Parents United for Public Education group are suing over the conditions of Philadelphia’s public schools. The petitioners are represented by the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia.
In the suit, to be filed against acting Pennsylvania education secretary Carolyn Dumaresq, the parents say the state has failed in its constitutional mandate to “receive and investigate allegations of curriculum deficiencies.” Parents United says it delivered 825 complaints about school conditions to Dumaresq that were not followed up on.
Per the lawsuit, the allegations included “overcrowded classrooms, the lack of classes such as art, music, foreign language and physical education, cancelled programs for the mentally gifted, the absence of facilities such as libraries or school materials such as textbooks that resulted in loss of instruction for students, shortages of staff … and unsafe or unsanitary conditions that interfered with students’ ability to respond to the curriculum.”
“In most if not all cases,” the lawsuit reads, “parents did not receive individualized responses to their allegations. Many received a one-page form letter.” The lawsuit asks for the secretary to investigate the complaints forwarded to her by Parents United.
“I want my son, and all kids in the city of Philadelphia, to have equal access to a really good education that they can use to get into college,” Plaintiff Tim Allen, whose son attends Bodine High, said in a statement. “Teachers and counselors are trying their hardest with the limited resources they have, but if the state will not investigate what is going on in city schools, Philadelphia’s kids will continue to suffer.”
In the lawsuit, Allen says conditions at Bodine included a classroom designed for 25 kids that was holding 40, with desks crammed so close together the teacher could not even walk up and down the aisles. Desks were crammed “one foot apart,” per Allen. A parent of a student at Charles W. Henry Elementary School says “there are not enough functional toilet facilities for the children at the school.”
Meanwhile, 23 state senators have sent a letter (below) to Dumaresq calling on her to address the issues detailed in the lawsuit. “We believe the level of funding is insufficient, as indicated by the more than 800 complaints of curriculum deficiency that were submitted to the Department of Education in 2013-14,” the letter reads. “We are writing to know what follow-up was made by your department to investigate those complaints.”