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As 2011 came to a close it was obvious that the power of community needed to be at the forefront now more than ever.

Time and time again changes in education at the local and state level failed to involve community voice; and decisions came from the top down.

One example is the voucher campaign that Gov. Tom Corbett pushed in Pennsylvania throughout 2011. After slashing Pennsylvania’s education budget, Corbett then decided that the problem with Pennsylvania’s education system was its lack of “school choice.” He then spearheaded voucher legislation that garnered national attention.

Nevertheless communities from all over the state came together in opposition to vouchers and ultimately halted its progress.

Thanks to the resounding voices of countless community champions, vouchers are no longer a looming reality for Pennsylvania However, often the voices of the community are excluded and don’t get to weigh in on the very proposals and decisions that affect the lives of students.

In Philadelphia, the School Reform Commission recently agreed to a major contract with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where the future of 50,000 seats from the lowest performing schools are at stake. The School Reform Commission made this decision without a single public hearing on the proposal.

Furthermore this private process was completed so quickly the public never had a chance to try and demand input. For this reason it is essential we actively check the powers that be to ensure our seat at the table.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said that “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Our Students matter and the education that they receive matters.

If we remain silent and allow education to continue to be run into the ground then our lives will have ended. If our students can’t succeed then our future is lost along with theirs.

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