Elementary students press mayoral candidates on playgrounds, arts, guns

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

What civic issues press on the minds of the city’s 4th and 5th graders?

The two top mayoral candidates got a chance to find out Tuesday at an event held at Philadelphia School District headquarters and hosted by the Rendell Center for Civics and Civic Engagement.

Some of the 4th-grade class at Isaac Sheppard Elementary in West Kensington reminded Democrat Jim Kenney and Republican Melissa Murray Bailey about the need for more extracurricular activities in schools.

Fourth-grader Abdul Luna read a letter he wrote to the candidates.

"We could really benefit from art, music, gym, sports, recess games and many more things too," said Abdul. "First, I think we should have these things because it will make our students more social and active with each other."

Murray Bailey pledged to the children that she’d return needed resources to schools, no matter what action is taken at the state level.

"It’s really important that we invest in those, and that means sometimes we’re not going to be able to do other things that we used to do in the city," she said. "But it’s really important to fund the schools, because if we don’t do that, then you guys aren’t going to be able to reach the potential that I know you can."

In addition to working to secure additional education funds from Harrisburg, Kenney said he’d lease the mayor’s luxury box suites at Citizens Bank Park, Lincoln Financial Field and Wells Fargo Center.

"We’re going to lease those boxes out, and we’re going to take that money and give it to that nonprofit so we can supplement school activities," he said.

Kenney’s campaign anticipates generating $1 million annually from these leases.

From Fern Rock, Julia Ward Howe Elementary 4th grader Diamond Novill wondered what the candidates would do about gun violence.

"I had a family member hurt by guns. I think the next mayor should ban guns in the city, and the world," she said. "Guns hurt too many people. It affects me a lot. It makes me sad. I think if there were strict gun laws then people would not do as much crime."

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