Philadelphia funding cuts have tragic consequences

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The fallout from the funding crisis in the Philadelphia public schools—including cuts to school nurses—continues, with especially tragic consequences as we learned that a sixth-grader died recently of complications from asthma.

Laporshia Massey complained of breathlessness at school but, due to budget cuts, there was no school nurse on duty to help. Once she got home, she ran to her nebulizer machine in an attempt to save her own life, but it was too late. A vigil for Massey is scheduled for Oct. 17.

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett continues to hold hostage $45 million of federal funding earmarked for Philadelphia schools. "We'll never know if having a school nurse on site could have spared Laporshia's life, but we do know that school nurses are trained to detect symptoms of asthma attacks," AFT President Randi Weingarten wrote in an open letter to Corbett. "We know that 1 in 11 children nationwide have asthma. And we know that in Philadelphia, the statistic is closer to 1 in 5."

"We can do better, and we must," she continued, urging that the $45 million be released immediately, with no strings attached. "With that money, we can come one step closer to making Philadelphia neighborhood public schools safe and healthy."

A coalition of civil and human rights groups is also criticizing Corbett for his poor leadership, calling the Philadelphia schools crisis "an embarrassment to the entire nation." "Over the last several years, Philadelphia has become a cautionary tale for the rest of the country, illustrating the harm that occurs when political posturing and irresponsible budget decisions trump the educational needs of students, families and communities," leaders said in a letter, which was signed by the NAACP's Ben Jealous and Wade Henderson of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, among others.

[Kate Childs Graham, Dan Gursky, Philly.com]

October 15, 2013