[Testimony by State Rep., Thaddeus Kirkland before expert panel on state budget cuts for Chester’s public schools]
First let me thank Mr. Jerry Mondesire, the State Wide President of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Dr. Flynn, the State Chair of Education for the NAACP, and our very own Mr. Darryl Jones, President of the Chester Branch NAACP for convening this most important hearing surrounding the devastating educational cuts that have been imposed upon the Chester Upland School District. These cuts have had a devastating effect upon our Educators, our parents, our community and most of all our children.
My name is Rev. Thaddeus Kirkland and I am the State Representative of the 159th Legislative District in which Chester Upland lies. I also am the pastor of the Community Baptist Church, located 325 W. 7th Street. “A Church with a heart of God and God’s people.” I also represent portions of two other school districts here in Delaware County, those being the Chi Chester School District and the Ridley School District. And although cuts have been made throughout the school districts in Delaware County and throughout PA, none have been so deep and mean spirited as those imposed on this the Chester Upland School District.
Before I begin, let me be clear. “I, State Rep. Thaddeus Kirkland, do not speak for the Chester Upland School District administration. Let me be clear on that. However I do believe that I speak for the teachers, parents, children, educational support staff, the security services, maintenance workers and all those whose lives have been altered dramatically by these draconian cuts, prior to the Chester Upland School District Administration having to adopt this painful and hurtful school year budget.
I had said on the Floor of the House of Representatives that if we passed a budget that would take $20 million dollars away from the children of Chester, Chester Township and Upland that we would be forced to merge schools, increase class sizes, dismiss teachers, layoff support staff and do away with a large portion of our security staff and maintenance workers. I said this back in May, and today because of these cuts we have done just that. Yes, $10 million dollars was restored to our funding, but quite frankly, that was just enough to prolong the inentable, that being the demise of the Chester Upland School District. (In other words, they gave us just enough to fail)
Some of our classrooms have ballooned to 40 plus students. (We said that would happen) Our teaching staff has been depleted tremendously. Just look at the parking lots of our schools. We have now compromised the safety of our children and our educators as well as our security personal. Why? Because the security personnel that was in place for the safety of the students and others has now been drastically downsized. All for the sake of cuts. These cuts have hurt so much that in some cases our students are without workbooks and have limited access to simple supplies like paper.
We have also been forced to combine two of our most touted magnet high schools into one. This after partnering with Crozer Hospital who spent thousands of dollars renovating and retrofitting Smedley Middle School to become Smedley Allied Health Academy. Now the schools sits vacant waiting to be transformed once again into an elementary school, and the probability of Crozer no longer contracting with CUSD in the school year 2012/2013 because of this current breach of contract is more than likely. All because Gov. Corbett and the Republican run House and Senate decided that the children and parents of Chester, Chester Township and Upland were not worth the time and or money.
Also because of these cuts, the Chester Upland School District is without music or art on the high school level. As a matter of fact, there is only one music teacher in the entire school district. There is not one other school in Delaware County where they have only one music teacher in its entire district. Not one… and because of this now our children will not be able to exercise their God given talents and possibly never realize their dreams of becoming Music or Art majors. This is not right….
This type of treatment is not fair… As a matter of fact, it is downright racist. If you look at each and every school district that has taken this type of financial hit, you will see that they are districts of color or poor school districts in poor communities or both.
Say what you want to say about Gov. Rendell’s Budget not being on time, what you can’t say, it that his budget was anti education and anti child.
In closing, some might ask the question, why are Jerry Mondesire and Dr. Flynn here in Chester? Don’t they have their own problems that need solving in Philadelphia and Media? To that question, I respond in a two-fold manner.
Number one, the parents and the students of this community reached out to them as well as our very own Darryl Jones and ask for their help. That is why they are here.
And number two, our educational house is on fire here in Chester Upland and quite frankly, I don’t care who brings the water.
[Rep. Thaddeus Kirkland has represented the 159th District since 1993.]