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Students Say No to Vouchers

Today on June 23rd, 2011, I –Daesya Parker– completed my first public speech for the Philadelphia Student Union. This speech was for the “No Vouchers Express,” a joint action that we completed with Action United and the Education Law Center. This bus tour was dedicated solely to stopping our state representatives and senators from voting yes on Voucher legislation.

If you asked me a few months ago “What do you personally think about vouchers, Daesya Parker?” I wouldn’t have known how to respond. At the Philadelphia Student Union’s Spring Retreat there was a workshop on Vouchers, but ironically enough I wasn’t there for it because I was in a different part of our retreat space facilitating my first workshop. Because I missed the chance to educate myself on vouchers at PSU’s various workshops, I was misinformed. I thought vouchers would give students an opportunity to get a better education and that every student would be capable of receiving and using a voucher. So based on what I had heard from other sources, I was actually a supporter of vouchers.

Shortly after that I attended the final Saturday meeting of the year and Megan asked “Is there anyone that wants to speak at an upcoming action?” I raised my hand and I, along with two other PSU members, were chosen by the group to speak.

The preparation for the action “No Vouchers Express” was where my eyes were fully and totally opened to the false misconceptions that I was being told via my Governor. At the preparation meetings I got to speak with other students in the Philadelphia School District and read actual studies and facts on vouchers. I got to see the real information. I couldn’t believe how much of a contradiction there was from what Governor Corbett, Secretary of Education Tomalis and other voucher supporters were saying compared to the realities of the situation.

According to the Senate Bill 1 (and the other newer versions this bill) it will supposedly give vouchers to low-income students and this money would be enough for them to afford an education at private or parochial schools. The reality was pointed out by PSU’s official statement on vouchers which was written by our Youth Leadership Team: “The amount of money that a student would actually receive wouldn’t even be enough to afford tuition at most private schools. The majority of low-income families will not be able to make up the difference.”

I also further realized that vouchers are unconstitutional and are directly against what our state Constitution says, which states “No money raised for the support of the public schools of the Commonwealth shall be appropriated to, or used for the support of any sectarian school.”

During today’s riveting bus tour we visited the offices of Senator Larry Farnese, Senator Anthony Williams, and State Representative James Roebuck. It was pretty interesting. We got mixed responses from every representative and senator. Since all of them were in Harrisburg we spoke to their representatives.

I spoke at the office of Senator Anthony Williams, who is an avid supporter of Voucher Legislation. Because Senator William did not want to listen to the community we forced him to listen. Since he wasn’t there we spoke with his representative. This office was by far the most difficult because Senator William’s representative was very disingenuous and his responses seemed very rehearsed. I realized at that moment of frustration that no matter how small the footstep, we were still moving in the right direction and that there would be bigger steps for another day.

After we left Senator Williams’ office we thanked State Representative James Roebuck for defending us so fiercely during the course of the Vouchers Bill. Overall our bus tour was a success and I completed my first speech. For me, speaking gave me the power to face those that misinformed so many people in my community about vouchers. I had the chance to speak for the voices of so many youth in Pennsylvania and stand for something that I support.

Written by Daesya Parker (third from left)

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