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| Organizing for Education Justice

Allentown School Director, Others Rally for Education Funding Boost at Sen. Pat Browne's Office

The Express-Times - March 11. 2015, by Precious Petty - Pennsylvanians on Wednesday rallied in cites across the commonwealth and urged state legislators to put people first.

A dozen Lehigh Valley residents gathered outside Sen. Pat Browne's West Hamilton Street office in Allentown. They chanted "Listen up, Pat Browne" and displayed signs printed with the message "We rise," sometimes drawing shouts or honks of support from passersby.

Keystone Progress organizer Nicole Matos led demonstrators as they called for an education funding boost, a higher minimum wage, equal pay for women and increased Medicaid spending. Similar rallies occurred all morning and afternoon in Jim Thorpe, Pittsburgh, York and five other Pennsylvania cities, she said.

Matos, of Stroudsburg, said too many of the state's elected officials are making decisions that advance corporate interests while exacerbating inequality, hurting low-income and minority families, damaging the environment and weakening the nation's democracy.

National Day of Action rally on March 11, 2015 A National Day of Action rally was held March 11, 2015, outside Sen. Pat Browne’s office in Allentown.

Allentown School Board member CeCe Gerlach said more than 1,300 students have dropped out of city schools over the last three years and inadequate education funding is contributing to the problem.

"They've dropped out, partly, because our class sizes have increased. They've dropped out because we don't have enough textbooks all the time. They've dropped out because the teachers aren't able to pay each student the amount of individual attention that they require," said Gerlach, who was among the demonstrators.

"They've dropped out because many of them need jobs because their families, who are working at minimum wage, can't afford to pay their rent."

She said Browne has gone to bat for Allentown schools before and she's hopeful he'll step to the plate again this budget season.

"He's come through for the Allentown School District in the past," Gerlach said. "I'm hopeful he'll come through for the Allentown School District now."

Keystone Progress in a news release said the organization staged rallies outside the offices of legislators whose recent actions undercut public education. Browne, along with other Republican Senate leaders, sent school superintendents a letter advising them not to count on getting the education funding that's part of Gov. Tom Wolf's budget proposal.

A staffer at Browne's office declined comment about the rally, which was timed to fall on the National Day of Action.

Keystone Progress joined with National People's Action, Center for Popular Democracy and USAction to mark the day and send the message that it's time for legislators to put people and the planet first, the release says. People in 23 states participated in rallies and other events.