School Nurse Speaks Out at 440 Rally

Eileen Duffey, a school nurse who has been in the forefront of the opposition to school budget cuts and privatization over the last year spoke at the PHARE rally yesterday. Text of her speech is here

My name is Eileen Duffey,
I am a Philadelphia school nurse.
In over 30 years of working with children in this city, I have seen firsthand every kind of educational experience–from some of the elite private schools to some good and some not so good parochial schools to some of the best public schools and also to some of our not so great public schools.
But I have come to believe in and to love our public schools.
I have come to believe that the crux of the problem in many of our schools is not an achievement gap, but an opportunity gap.

Martin Luther King told us that “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.”
Today I am here to remind you that our public schools matter.
Our public schools are worth fighting for.
This time last year, 47 school nurses were laid off .
We began a fight for the health and safety of our children in schools and called attention to the need for school nurses.

We learned that the public does not understand the complexity of what school nurses do each day.

We learned that the public doesn’t know that our schools may only have a nurse a few days a week and that our schools are left to fend for themselves the rest of the time.

We learned that our fight for school nurses is inextricably linked to a fight for the very survival of our public schools.

We learned that present solutions offered by our elected officials will worsen the social and economic disparities that already exist in our communities.

We learned to give up a naive belief that the checks and balances our democracy has offered us are a given.

Today, those checks and balances have been stacked against us.
Our public schools are on the brink of being sold to the highest bidder.

We intend to fight to keep our public schools public.

And as we gather today, we implore all caring citizens, of every ethnic group and from every neighborhood in this city, to join in our fight.
We implore churches, synagogues, and mosques to join us in our struggle– because EVERY faith tradition recognizes the pressing social justice issues of our times.
We implore all to join us in our struggle for good publicly funded schools.
Dr. Hite has said that the decision to close almost 40 public schools will bring tremendous anxiety and emotion and controversy. He is correct in saying this. But that fact does not discourage us.
It is tempting to project our darkness onto the future.
It is tempting to be paralyzed by the enormity of the problems before us.
We categorically reject this temptation.
We refuse to be paralyzed.
We will not give up our fight to save our public schools.
This is just the beginning.

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