On Saturday, April 14, 2012, more than 400 students, teachers, parents, Pittsburgh city council members, state, and national legislators gathered at the Childrenʼs Museum of Pittsburgh to voice concerns about the billion-dollar cut to public education in Pennsylvania. We wrote letters, emails and tweets. We shared our words and wishes for our schools on the Saturday Light Brigade, on video, and during an open-mic session. We created banners, signs, posters, and t-shirts. And throughout the four-hour Write Now! Education Matters event, we rocked out with students from the Dilworth Traditional Academy Drummers.
Hosted by the Western PA Writing Project and Education Voters PA, and co-sponsored by Saturday Light Brigade, A+ Schools, Communities for Excellence, Hear Me, One Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh United, the Pennsylvania State Education Association, United Food and Commercial Workers, Yinzercation and the Square Café, our event included students from Pittsburgh, Wilkinsburg, Steel Valley, Mt. Lebanon, and several other local school districts, as well as the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon.
Together we generated:
- More than 200 letters and signs supporting public education funding that were sent to the governor and state representatives
- Over 100 pro-education funding t-shirts
- Nearly 1,000 cookies , demonstrating the millions of cookies we’d have to sell to make up for the state cuts to education funding
- More than 40 interviews with children and adults about their hopes and dreams for public schools
Jodi Hirsh, local consultant for Education Voters PA and one of the event organizers, said about the Write Now!, “Parents and community members are angry about Governor Corbett’s ill-advised, draconian cuts to education funding, and they’ve been organizing all over the state to make sure their concerns are heard. What was great about this event is it not only built upon those organizing efforts, but focused specifically on giving the students themselves –those who feel these cuts each and every day–a chance to make their voices heard. It’s the students who are the biggest stakeholders in this fight, and it was so empowering to hear them speaking up for their schools.”
For Matthew Luskey, Director of the Western Pa Writing Project, “Saturday was an advocacy event and an educational one. With support from K to college teachers, students wrote for authentic audiences, through various modes and published in a variety of media.”
As students spoke about their schools, tweets scrolled in from around the county and state. Congressman Mark Critz rallied students and parents with slogans and hisses, and Bill Peduto, Member of the Pittsburgh City Council and a staunch advocate for pubic education funding, was quick to book the Dilworth band for a future gig.
Amanda Godley, parent of two Pittsburgh Public School students, noted, “It was so powerful to see students of all ages and from different communities come together with one voice to say, ‘Invest in our education!’
Saturday Light Brigade host, Larry Berger, interviewed 11 students from kindergarten to 11th grade. Students from Allegheny K-5, Colfax, CAPA, Dilworth and Wilkinsburg High School read excerpts from their letters and spoke about recent advocacy work. Brandi Knight, a 10th grader at Wilkinsburg HS, shared with Larry her passion for chemistry and her regrets that there are no opportunities for her to take a more advanced science class at her high school due to the budget cuts.
On Saturday, children told us what they need and expect from their public schools. Each one of us is obligated to listen to what they said and to fight for them and their future through our letters, calls, involvement in events like Write Now!, and votes. We cannot stop pressuring Governor Corbett and state legislators to restore educational funding so that every child in Pittsburgh, and in the state of Pennsylvania, receives an excellent, equitable education. We owe it to our children.