Cheltenham-A student member of the Montgomery County Cultural Ability and Stock Student Ambassador asked a state legislator one important question at a recent virtual town hall.
Yasir Valentine, a fourth-year student at Cheltenham High School, raised this issue in a discussion at the City Hall organized by student groups and their adult consultant Carmina Taylor.
Since its inception in February last year, the group has been attended by 80 high school students from eight different school districts in Montgomery County and has held monthly meetings.
According to Taylor, Cheltenham, Norristown, Northpen, and Upper Dublin were the initial members of the organization, with the addition of the Abington, Hatboro Horsham, Lower Moreland, and Upper Moreland school districts.
“I want them to articulate their perspective on the problem and be prepared to become a warrior of social justice at school if they are still in school,” he said. Taylor said.
The first Town Hall was opened in November 2020, providing a forum for students and lawmakers to have a “frank conversation,” Taylor said.
Recent forums have focused on two specific issues: financing and constituency restructuring. Following the presentation, representatives of the Pennsylvania State Legislative Black Caucus provided feedback and general comments to the attending high school students.
“I wanted them to focus on having the confidence to articulate their truth, and I think that was achieved,” Taylor said.
Emily Trejo, a student at Norristown Area High School, told participants [an] “Is funding always fair?”
“You are asking the right question,” said Congressman Regina Young of the D-185 District.
Trejo and Valentine are “economical[ally] It is a “underprivileged” and “economically wealthy” school district in Montgomery County, pointing to the need for fair funding.
Trejo and Valentine provided a financial breakdown for their respective schools. The Norristown Regional School District has a budget of approximately $ 163.7 million. The nearby Cheltenham school district said it had a budget of $ 119 million, of which $ 94 million was for taxes and $ 25 million was from federal and state funds.
Valentine pointed out that the “economic disadvantages” demographics of the Norristown and Cheltenham school districts differ significantly compared to other school districts in the region.
“Norristown is number one and both schools are the most economical with over 60 percent of students of color.[ally] “Unfavorable students,” said Valentine, adding that 43% of Norristown’s student population is Hispanic, 32.8% are black, and 14.9% are white. Hispanic is 8%.
However, when examining “Economically Wealthy School Districts in Montgomery County,” Valentine found that the majority of the student population in the lower Merion, Upper Dublin, and Lower Moreland school districts was white.
Valentine spotlighted the following demographics for the aforementioned school district in his presentation.
- Lower Merion: Black student population 8%, Hispanic student population 5.5%, White student population 68.4%
- Upper Dublin: Black student population 6.7%, Hispanic student population 3.7%, White student population 74.9%
- Lower Moreland: Black student population 1.1%, Hispanic student population 2.6%, White student population 76.9%
“None of these schools has more than 15% of students of color. This is because schools with a high proportion of students of color are at a financial disadvantage over the majority of white schools. It shows that we are in a situation, “he said.
“I’m happy that it’s happening now, but it should have happened long ago,” Valentine said, adding that the “political situation” has changed.
State Senator Art Haywood said these concerns crossed the boundaries of the state’s third most populous county.
“Besides comparing one school district in Montgomery County with another, there are some serious funding issues,” Haywood said.
Sadia Rahat, a student at North Penn High School, and Shannon Clancy, a student at Upper Dublin High School, emphasized the importance of participating in initiatives such as the US Census every 10 years.
“It’s important how we identify and define the district,” agreed with Congressman Napoleon Nelson (D-154th Dist).
Clancy found that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic prevented her from fully participating in last year’s US census.
“The census wasn’t accurate,” Clancy said. “COVID-19 is definitely influencing these numbers, which is imbalanced in minorities.”
Nelson pointed out issues with “identification and counting methods” in some communities, including minorities and people behind prisons.
“There are a number of issues that we are actually working on right now, as there are frauds that are only related to completing a healthy and solid census,” Nelson said. “And, obviously, we think twice. As you can see, last year’s census was clouded with important wording, or at least the wrong direction and controversy over immigrant status, which helped to exacerbate the problem.
Rahat and Clancy emphasized how the census results affect district boundaries throughout the federation.
Rahat compared “limitations” with “the way we almost see the three-fifths compromise of 1787.”
“This time it’s devastating to see that, but the way we’re working on the reorganization of the constituency isn’t hearing everyone’s voice, it’s basically separating others. The fact is. The real voice, and the power we can actually have, it must not be like a political party, because we are all human and have basic rights. Properly abolishing the constituency is actually depriving humans of their rights, Rahat said.
Rahat and Clancy condemned the current federal “gerrymandering” practices and instead called for greater transparency.
“With transparency, we really trust the legislators. This is a big deal, because if you don’t trust the other side or our side, listen to us. How do you feel about getting it? ”And if you can’t hear us, nothing changes. “
State legislators praised the students’ efforts and added that such events are important in fostering constructive conversations with the younger generation.
“I found it very refreshing to hear such a young and clear leader speak that way and then give a presentation,” Young said. “I think you did a great job.”
“You told your truth, from your passion and experience. I admit it and believe that the answer we have been looking for is you,” she continued. “This is these. It’s a platform that I find very useful for emphasizing the subject. “
Everything agreed needs to do more. State Congressman Donna Bullock answered Valentine’s Day as an answer to a previous question.
“Yasir, it’s time for us to take action behind the scenes,” she said.
Montgomery County students hold town hall with lawmakers | Local News
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