Children First worked closely with students from William Penn School District (one of the plaintiffs in the Fair Funding Lawsuit in Pennsylvania) to co-produce a student-led podcast, PENNding Funds, that shares their thoughts, frustrations, experiences, and hopes for future of education funding. These insightful interviews show how unfair funding has denied students a “thorough and efficient” education in their district.
Three students – Trinity Giddings (11th grade), Paul Vandy (11th) ,and Lisa Asamoah (12th) – worked with the Children First K-12 Team and two William Penn alumni, Jacob McCann (’15) and Susan Norton (’87), now an English teacher at Penn Wood High School.
Below is a summary of each podcast:
- Ep. 1 Introduction to PENNding Funds: This episode introduces two students, Trinity and Paul from the William Penn School District. They share that this podcast will be focused on the Fair Funding Lawsuit that began on Friday, November 12th. They will be covering the past, the present, and their hopes for a promising future.
- Ep. 2 How does Education Funding Work?: On this episode, another member of the PENNding Fund’s Podcast, Lisa, introduces herself and with her classmate, Paul, they discuss how public schools are funded and how this inadequate funding has affected their lives within the school building, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Ep. 3 Week 1 Trial: Is it fair to call a building with only chairs and desks a school? Trinity and Paul review statements made by David McAndrew, Jr., superintendent of Panther Valley School District who describes the negative impact of a lack of thorough and efficient funding, Patrick Northen, a lawyer representing the respondents, who explain what qualifies as a school, and Senator Tim Kearney who asks for a clearer definition of the term, “fair.”
- Ep. 4 Interview with Ms. Kristina Moon Part 1: Lisa and Trinity come back to PENNding Funds with an interview with Kristina Moon, one of the Lawyers from the Education Law Center. They ask questions about the probable outcomes and the flesh-out issues with school lunches.
- Ep. 5 Interview with Ms. Kristina Moon Part 2: Lisa and Trinity host continue their conversation with Kristina Moon, a lawyer from the Education Law Center in this part 2. They continue to discuss the hopes for this trial and the students share their own experiences.
- Ep. 6 Trial Week 2 Update: Does an adequately funded school still use textbooks from the 20th century? Does an adequately funded school need to choose between heat and classroom supplies? Paul and Lisa highlight testimony from Tara Yurecheck, a teacher who graduated from and lives in the district where she works; Professor Derrek Black from the University of South Carolina School of Law; and Professor Matthew Kelly from Penn State College of Education.
- Ep. 7 Trial Week 3 Update: Last week we heard from Matthew Stem, the former Deputy Secretary at the Pennsylvania Department of Education from 2015 to 2021 and Superintendent Amy Arcurio of the Greater Johnstown School District. Mr. Stem and Dr. Arcurio both spoke about the disparities in academic performance based on a student’s home socioeconomic status. Without resources, how can we expect students to be successful? Trinity and Lisa share a personal experience from their time at Penn Wood when the disparities were extremely obvious.
- Ep. 7 Interview with Jacob McCann Part 1: Paul and Jacob have a conversation regarding Jacob’s experience as an alumni of the William Penn School District. He shares his personal experiences from inside the school building and how it impacted him as a college student and beyond.
- Ep. 8 Interview with Jacob McCann (‘15) Part 2: Paul and Jacob finish up their conversation regarding Jacob’s experience as an alumni of the William Penn School District. He shares his personal experiences from inside the school building and how it impacted him as a college student and beyond.
- Ep. 9 Trial Week 4-5 Featuring Trinity, Lisa and Paul: All three podcasters share highlights of the testimony from Dr. Amy Arcurio and Stephanie Kobal from Greater Johnstown SD and Brian Waite from Shenandoah Valley SD who described what they are facing as a result of insufficient funding. In addition, testimony from Karen Molchanow from the State Board of Education and Dr. Steven Barnett, the founder and co-director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University, addressed the long-term impact lack of appropriate school funding has on a community.
- Ep. 10 Interview with Ms. Norton and Ms. Calvin Part 1: Trinity interviews two Penn Wood alumni and current teachers, Ms. Calvin and Ms. Norton where they describe what Penn Wood was like in the 80s and what they would like to see our district become. Interview with Ms. Norton and Ms. Calvin Part 2: Trinity finishes her interview with Ms. Calvin and Ms. Norton, alumni and current teachers, by asking how the racial changes within the community may have contributed to the changes in programs.
- Ep 11: Trial Week 6 “What do we cut?” Part 1: Trinity and Paul summarize the testimony from Lancaster School District’s superintendent, Dr. Darmaris Rau and chief of finances, Matthew Przywara. In economically disadvantaged school districts, there are unique needs that require additional funding. John Krill questioned whether students in these districts really need courses like Algebra and Biology. Should students be limited in career choices based on the financial status of their school district?
- Ep 12: Week 6 Update Part 2: On this part 2, Paul and Trinity go over some background on William Penn School District including testimony from Rapp Curry. They reflect on the lack of athletic access. Another William Penn voice, Nicole Miller was called to the stand to share her experience as a Kindergarten teacher. Ms. Miller says that state funding would give her an opportunity to help her students more effectively.
- Ep. 13 Trial Week 7: Lisa and Paul share highlights from our own district’s former and current superintendents, Ms. Jane Harbert and Dr. Eric Becoats. They explained that we would have needed 30-35 reading specialists to provide appropriate support for our early elementary students, but we didn’t have enough money to have even one. We also need about $149 mil to update the facilities, but are only expected to receive $16 mil. It is no surprise that our graduation rate and SAT scores are near the bottom of the state’s districts when we do not even have enough textbooks for students to take them home to do homework.
- Ep. 14 Trial Week 8: Trinity and Lisa discuss the relationship that poverty and poorly funded schools have on contributing to the achievement gap, also known as the opportunity gap. Dr. William Hite, superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia, and Dr. Pedro Noguera, dean of the School of Education at USC, described how students experiencing poverty need additional resources to have access to the same futures others take for granted. Dr. Noguera contrasted the success rates of students experiencing poverty who were in a well-funded school district like Abington to those who were in Philadelphia, which is not sufficiently funded.