Student makes case for increased school funding

Tauheed Baukman, a rising senior at Parkway Center City, posted a petition on Change.org.
Tauheed Baukman, a rising senior at Parkway Center City, posted a petition on Change.org. (CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer)
Posted: August 08, 2013

Tauheed Baukman couldn't imagine what his high school would be like under the Philadelphia School District's doomsday budget.

A single secretary. No guidance counselors. No support staff.

So the senior from Parkway Center City took matters into his own hands.

He drafted a petition and posted it at Change.org to draw attention to the district's plight, lament the shuttering of 23 schools, and pressure politicians to help a foundering system.

"As a rising high school senior," he wrote, "I am worried about the elimination of guidance counselors and noontime aides. Students must now fend for themselves in situations where in prior years they could call upon a counselor for assistance. Without counselors, how can a senior seek professional guidance on questions regarding the college search, application, visitation, and financial-aid processes?"

Baukman, 17, who plans to study chemical engineering in college, is gathering signatures from near and far.

"I'm looking for a good amount of signatures to get the city and state officials' attention to actually address the issue and see that the kids are actually concerned," said Baukman, who will preside over Parkway's student government.

The West Philly teen also volunteers at Parkway with friends this summer to help principal Karren Dunkley get the school ready to open Sept. 9.

He has notified freshmen about orientation, put up posters in hallways, and phoned students and parents to remind them of summer reading assignments.

"I pretty much help out any way I can," Baukman said.

Dunkley, who was appointed July 1 to replace Catherine Blunt, who retired, is grateful for the help of students and a parent volunteer.

"They have been invaluable," she said.

Baukman said the idea for his petition came from a roundtable discussion in June. His English teacher showed a MSNBC video about the Philadelphia schools' financial woes and staff layoffs. The clip pointed out that while Gov. Corbett had cut state aid to schools, he found $400 million to replace Graterford Prison.

"We discussed it for a good 50 minutes," Baukman recalled. "He asked us, 'Who is going to do something about this?' I immediately raised my hand. I went home that day and started writing up a draft of the petition."

He polished the wording, found Change.org, and posted his "save-our-philadelphia-schools" entreaty.

"Petition to City of Philadelphia and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania officials demanding adequate education funding," he wrote.

As a student-government leader, he said, he had taken an oath "to be the voice of my school and advocate not only for what the students want, but more importantly what we need. Therefore, I shall not let the passing of the 'doomsday' budget cuts . . . go unnoticed or unopposed. I have proudly taken the burden of being the voice of the entire student body, staff, and faculty of the School District of Philadelphia."

He warned that the cuts and school closings would hurt students.

"I think there's a chance to have an impact," Baukman said. "This is not just a local issue: It's actually a national issue. There are schools in Detroit, Chicago . . . and in California, there are school districts that have 50 schools closing. We have 23. That's bad. But 50 schools?"

Dunkley praised Baukman's initiative.

"I'm very proud of his effort and support for equitable education funding," she said. "It speaks to the hope and leadership that young people bring."


Contact Martha Woodall at 215-854-2789 or martha.woodall@

phillynews.com.

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