Public ed advocates turn to video to spread their message on schools crisis

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia. by Isaac Riddle

“If you can’t get your voice heard, then you need to find the mechanism to be heard,” said Eileen Duffey, an 18-year veteran of the School District of Philadelphia.

Duffey, a school nurse at the Academy at Palumbo, found that mechanism through Our Schools Are Not for Sale, a short documentary video that examines the current education funding crisis and the closing of 24 neighborhood schools by the School Reform Commission earlier this year.

The video was conceived by Duffey and the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools, an advocacy group she helped found, and made in collaboration with the community-based Media Mobilizing Project.

“We have been unsuccessful at breaking through to the larger community about the ramifications of the privatization of our public schools,” Duffey said. “All of us will pay a huge price if we allow this public school system to be dismantled.”

Milena Velez, of the Media Mobilizing Project, co-produced the video and conducted interviews with parents, students, and teachers.

“This year has been particularly intense for schools,” said Velez. “We wanted to tell this story of what’s happening to our schools and what the stakes are.”

Duffey and Velez have asked community members to host screenings of the documentary with their neighbors.

“I want more people to understand the problem and ask what they can do about this,” Duffey said.

The documentary interviews parents, students, and teachers who all argue that the state is underfunding the School District, while ignoring concerns from the community.

The Media Moblizing Project intends to produce more short documentaries that highlight issues in the community.

“This is the beginning of the conversation,” said Duffey.