Harrisburg, Jan. 21, 2016 – A boiler explosion in a Philadelphia elementary school coupled with previously unheard of examples of a crumbling infrastructure in the district have Sen. Vincent Hughes, the Democratic chairman of the Pennsylvania Senate Appropriations Committee, urging state budget negotiators to quickly return to Harrisburg to adopt critical education investments.
The explosion last week at F.S. Edmonds School in East Mount Airy seriously injured one worker.
“Our prayers are with this worker as he fights to recover from the burns he suffered when the school’s boiler blew up,” Sen. Hughes said. “While we don’t yet know the exact cause of the explosion, the message it should clearly deliver to Harrisburg is that it needs to pay better attention to what’s happening in more and more of our school districts.
“This is not just a Philly problem. Because Republican lawmakers have willfully chosen to not invest any more money in our students, teachers, and classrooms over the past five years, school districts across Pennsylvania are being forced to pay for repairs instead of to invest in the education of our children.
“Too many schools have been forced into the impossible position of having to prioritize the maintenance of their infrastructure because they don’t have the money to do anything else. Like in Philly, school officials will do their best to maintain their mechanicals but what they must do is replace many of these systems,” Hughes said.
In addition to the boiler incident, Hughes noted recent published reports of crumbling infrastructure that underscore his concern and argument.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Jan. 12 how the school district has watched its list of teacher vacancies grow from 107 last year to 162 this year.
Hughes also noted an incident this past September that closed Solis-Cohen Elementary. Just before the start of the school year, a district employee discovered a crumbling and structurally unsound foundation at the building.
That employee’s efforts averted catastrophe at the 1,300-student school, the senator said.
“These things are happening because too many public officials have turned a blind eye to what’s really going on in schools across Pennsylvania,” Sen. Hughes said. “This is a fool’s errand. The School District of Philadelphia has a $5 billion maintenance and repair backlog because too many lawmakers have run away from doing what is right.
“It’s tragic that one person was injured trying to maintain an elementary school boiler, but that explosion happened when kids were in school. How much longer do these types of things have to happen before we have our own Sandy Hook-style catastrophe because too many lawmakers don’t want to do what’s right by our children and the classrooms they have to learn in every day?”
Hughes said the so-called framework budget that negotiators from all caucuses agreed to should be the guidepost for completing the 2015-2016 spending plan.