Pittsburgh’s District 6 Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle: There’s a state of education emergency in the city of Pittsburgh.

Photo: Office of Councilman Lavelle

As a father of two grade school kids in the Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS) system, and as a City Council representative, I have long been concerned about the state of public education in our city. The school shutdowns prompted by the pandemic have further highlighted and exacerbated the educational challenges we face here in Pittsburgh. 

Even with this awareness, I was still shocked by the report released last year by the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC), which measured the racial achievement gaps in our school system. The dismal narrative it presented prompted me to work with fellow Councilman Rev. Ricky Burgess to introduce a resolution in Council declaring a state of education emergency in the city of Pittsburgh. 

Our resolution calls on PPS and the Pittsburgh City government to engage in a collaborative and comprehensive process to assess, address, and eliminate the current state of educational emergency in Pittsburgh schools. The legislation lists nine areas of focus to work on, including reopening our elementary schools, implementing longer school days and a longer school year, providing additional tutoring and counseling services, increasing the percentage of African American teachers, and increasing the number of children in the District’s Preschool Program.   

We are absolutely in a state of education emergency. It is a reality that existed before the pandemic as evidenced by abysmal reading and math scores noted in the PHRC report. The twin public health crises of COVID-19 and institutional racism which has fueled the educational achievement gap have combined to create the educational emergency we face. If not adequately addressed, it will have long-term negative consequences for families in the city and the District, and will disproportionately affect the health and safety of our African American families. The City must therefore do everything in its power to open the elementary schools as soon as possible.  

The resolution is currently on hold as the City works with the Pittsburgh Board of Education, the superintendent of PPS and the president of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers to plan and schedule the substance and logistics of a Council Post Agenda and a series of public hearings. Our intent is to narrowly focus on academic achievement and the ways in which the City can partner with the District to foster greater success. 

We are dealing with an issue that affects all of us; the very future of the city of Pittsburgh. It is therefore incumbent on each of us to pool our resources and come together to work toward solutions that narrow the racial achievement gap and lead toward a more equitable and just city of Pittsburgh.

R. Daniel Lavelle

Councilman, District 6   

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