What Are We Going To Do Now?





GORDONVILLE – Been hearing a lot about education these days.

Seeing studies the US ranks in the world, where our state would rank in math if it were its own country, etc.

The election season brings out the beast in all candidates, as they massage the facts to fit the talking point of the choir for which they preach.

And the Common Core debate has grown from a whisper to a scream.

Here is my common core: For better or worse, for richer or poorer, our school systems provide more than just a place to learn.

They are a safe haven, a place for caring and responsible adults – as opposed to what may or may be serving as primary caretakers on the home front – stepping up to the plate.

This support system goes beyond teachers teaching. It is those in the cafeteria providing perhaps the only sustenance some of those in the next generation get all day. It includes counselors listening to problems. It includes school nurses.

Or so we thought.

A day after the election, when Tom Wolf won the Democratic nod to unseat Tom Corbett for governor, we were greeted with the back-page news that served as a startling reminder of how vital the issue should be.

At a Philadelphia public school in South Philadelphia, a 7-year-old first-grader died of what was later ruled as an previously undetected congenital heart condition.

You can’t directly blame Corbett, or the parents, for the cause of death.

He is not off the hook.

Corbett says he is all about education, almost like a mantra, but actions speak louder than words.

“I do know that the building is woefully under-resourced. And now we have lost a baby,” said Jerry Jordan, the president of the teachers’ union said in aPhilly.com article, adding that the district was contemplating more staff cuts if it does not get at least $216 million in extra money from the city and state for the 2014-15 school year.

“This is horrific.”

Yes, it is.

Before the cause of death was released, it was revealed that there was no nurse present in the school.

No nurse?

Not to sound nostalgic, but in the pre-iPad days of my youth, you went to the nurse if you felt sick.

And this was in the same Philadelphia Public School System that is so woefully underfunded that 7-year-old first-graders are left unguarded.

Perhaps I’m ultra-aware of this story, and others like it, because my own daughter is a 7-year-old first-grader. I drop her off at school every day knowing that trained personnel — including nurses (plural) — are on the premises.

Why shouldn’t every child of every parent have the same level of assurance? Who is Tom Corbett, and those who support his draconian measures, to decide which parents do or do not get to be in the same comfort zone?

If this were an anomaly, it would be different.

Yes, it could happen anywhere – from South Philadelphia to South Bend to South Dakota – but one would hope that, in other places, one loss of life would lead to some enlightenment.

You see, folks, this was not the first time.

Not even the first time this year.

A sixth grader at another Philadelphia school died after suffering an asthma attack during the school day.

And no, there was no nurse.

“It’s a fundamental responsibility of the schools to provide for nursing care,” Helen Gym, a founder of Parents United for Public Education, told Philly.com. “You cannot take these reckless ideas that somehow you can slash essential people and personnel and staff at schools and not think that consequences won’t happen, that tragedies won’t happen.”

While the spin doctors peddling the propaganda machine talking about how there were CPR-trained staffers at the schools, and that the student was transferred to – and pronounced dead – at CHOP, something about the message rank hollow.

“It’s shocking, and it’s tragic, and we extend our deepest sympathies to the family,” School District spokesman, Fernando Gallard, was quoted as saying, adding that the school of 450 students only has a nurse every Thursday and every other Friday, meaning that if you fall seriously ill, you best do it on a Thursday or every other Friday.

And if something tragic happens at the school – like a student dying in front of his classmates while a sibling is a few classrooms away – they will send in a cavalcade of psychologists and bereavement counselors for a day or two.

They will be asked to talk about their feelings, and probably get those kid-shrugs.

In the end, I suppose, you get what you give.

You shrug off their lives as numbers on a debit sheet, and you are toying with the same response.

One wonders about the long-term feelings of abandonment, like they were left on a deserted island early in life because they happened to attend public school in Philadelphia, Pa. while Tom Corbett was governor.

“What are we going to do?” Gallard asked. “Just keep screwing around until we allow more terrible things to happen to children?”

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