Posted on January 12, 2024
Categories: News from SDP

Dear School District of Philadelphia Families,

In 1964, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said of education in America – “The richest nation on Earth has never allocated enough resources to build sufficient schools, to compensate adequately its teachers, and to surround them with the prestige our work justifies. We squander funds on highways, on the frenetic pursuit of recreation, on the overabundance of overkill armament, but we pauperize education.”

Startlingly, this description of the state of education accurately describes the challenges we still face today, 60 years later. We face a national teacher shortage, while the teachers we do have are underpaid, under-resourced, and under valued despite research demonstrating that they are the number one factor influencing student academic growth. Our buildings are old, in need of millions of dollars worth of repairs. And in Philadelphia, our financial challenges are no longer a matter of opinion – the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court has ruled that public education across the state has been systemically underfunded for decades.

And yet, in spite of the hurdles, Philadelphia’s students are making progress. Last school year, we reduced the high school dropout rate, improved student attendance, and increased the number of students passing state tests. I believe that Dr. King would be proud of the progress we have made, and insist that we continue our work to Accelerate Philly.

It is with that determination that we prepare for this Dr. Martin Luther King Day. Though schools and offices are closed, I encourage you to view this as a day on, and not a day off. I encourage you to participate in a Day of Service. Seek out an opportunity to join your friends, family or community in an effort to improve something, help someone, change somewhere for the better. Every individual and community can contribute to creating schools, neighborhoods and a society in which our young people thrive. In doing so, you are directly impacting the quality of life and education for the students of Philadelphia.

Every year, we partner with Global Citizen to promote the MLK Day of Service. You can find numerous events in which you can participate on the Global Citizen website. Information about Day of Service events taking place at District schools can be found on our Cultural Celebrations Website. You can also learn more about the history of the MLK Day of Service here, and find resources and tools for teaching your children or students about Dr. King’s work and legacy here.

Dr. King called education the battleground in the freedom struggle. I encourage you to enlist and join the struggle on January 15, 2024, and every day after. Have a wonderful Martin Luther King Jr. Day!

In partnership,

Tony informal signature

Tony B. Watlington Sr., Ed.D.
The School District of Philadelphia