From Petition Creator Colleen Kennedy: Upper Darby SD faced a $13 million shortfall, after facing the previous year's situation of basically the same. On April 10, 2012, Assistant Superintendent McGarry announced an academic realignment, to make ends meet. Music, art, physical education, and library would be eliminated at the elementary school level, and at the middle school level, there would be no more foreign language or technology instruction. A false "academic" legal argument was made, because school districts are not permitted to furlough teachers for economic reasons, under Pennsylvania state law. 57 teachers would be furloughed, under the guise of raising test scores. Thousands of students, parents, alumni, and taxpayers came out to every school board meeting, with massive peaceful protests outside the auditorium, attracting media attention. They were there to hold their elected officials accountable, to provide alternative solutions, and to protect programs that had brought great success to the Upper Darby community over the years. SUDA went to work, creating a viral video that documented our struggle. We asked people to tell their story, to sign our online petition against statewide cuts to public education, and to tell friends and family to do the same. The video changed everything for us, changing our movement from a group of local parents and community members to one that transcended zip codes. Tina Fey, an alumna of Upper Darby School District, got involved, reaching out to friends, family, and fellow celebrities. After that twitter blew up with tweets about our cause. People took to Youtube, to share their stories about how quality public education changed their lives for the better. Through combined online and canvassing efforts, SUDA was able to collect over 22,000 petition signatures. We presented our petition signatures in Harrisburg and held a rally on the Capitol steps. Rep. Roebuck, the chair of the Education committee in the PA State House, stopped by to speak. In the end, our efforts brought back $2,726,000 to Upper Darby School District and raised widespread outrage against public education cuts in Pennsylvania that resulted in an increase in Accountability Block Grant funding. The Accountability Block Grant increase affected school districts all across the state. Upper Darby School District was able to save 45 teacher positions thanks to this additional funding. It wasn't a perfect win, and we have tons of work to do, but it was a miracle nonetheless.
A PETITION FROM THE CONCERNED CITIZENS OF UPPER DARBY TOWNSHIP & THE COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA TO THE HONORABLE TOM CORBETT AND THE PENNSYLVANIA GENERAL ASSEMBLY
WHEREAS, the Governor has expressed his conviction that state money should “follow the students,” and WHEREAS approximately 90% of Pennsylvania children attend public schools;
WHEREAS, the $860 million in funding slashed from public schools in the 2011-2012 budget and the additional $100 million in cuts to public education proposed for 2012-2013 have decimated Pennsylvania public schools’ mandate to provide a complete, rigorous, and holistic education to all children;
WHEREAS, the Upper Darby School District and its approximately 12,000 students, in spite of significant and remarkable progress toward standardized AYP goals, have suffered directly and indirectly under the stipulations of these budgets;
WHEREAS, the loss of state reimbursement for the education of charter school students has cost the Upper Darby School District approximately $10 million over the course of the last five years;
WHEREAS, the District is now faced with the need to eliminate art, music, library science, and physical education classes and their associated instructors from all District elementary schools and technology and foreign language classes and their associated instructors from District middle schools;
WHEREAS, the academic, emotional, social, and cultural benefits of these programs to elementary and middle school-aged children are widely recognized;
WHEREAS the loss of these beloved and enriching programs must be considered a blight upon not only the students of the Upper Darby School District but upon their parents and upon all citizens of Upper Darby Township whether publicly or privately educated, and;
WHEREAS, the dismissal of certified, subject-specific instructors and the redistribution of their lesson plans and responsibilities to classroom teachers will marginalize the art, music, library science, physical education, technology, and foreign language curricula insofar as to make compatibility with the academic standards set down in Chapter 4 of the Pennsylvania Code vastly unachievable;
BE IT RESOLVED, we, the undersigned parents, students, alumni, teachers, and taxpayers of Upper Darby Township and the citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania respectfully but emphatically call upon the Governor and the General Assembly to restore the millions of dollars slashed from funding public schools and public schoolchildren. We demand that our school district be funded in such a way as to enable it to do full justice to the academic, artistic, and fitness-related needs of our children and to properly prepare them for success in diverse communities both within and beyond the classroom.