Parent advocate prioritizes fight for adequate funding

Rebecca Poyourow, Notebook member

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

It was the districtwide budget cuts in the spring of 2011 that led Philadelphia parent Rebecca Poyourow to start reading the Notebook.

“When I was scrambling to find out information about the District and about public education politics in the state when the budget cuts hit, [the Notebook] was the obvious place to go,” Poyourow, 46, said.

She recalled an article on the Notebook website that year which clinched her decision to become a member of the nonprofit: about the move to make Martin Luther King High School a Renaissance charter school and the School Reform Commission’s decision to award the school to a provider not chosen by King’s School Advisory Council.

Behind the decision, the Notebook uncovered a tangled series of maneuvers that prompted a city ethics investigation and ultimately ended with King remaining District-run as a Promise Academy. Poyourow said the impact of the Notebook coverage was significant to her so she wanted to contribute financially.

“I know it’s hard as an independent journalism outlet to survive, [so] I wanted to support the [Notebook]. It’s really an incredible resource that people should value and support.”

Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, during the 1970s, Poyourow remembers attending public school during a period of intense budget cuts. She said she still received a great education. After earning her bachelor’s degree from Wesleyan University and a Ph.D. in American culture from the University of Michigan, she moved to Roxborough in 2002 and began work at the University of Pennsylvania in higher education administration.

Poyourow wears many hats. She has two children in Philadelphia public schools and is an active parent at Cook-Wissahickon Elementary School. She is a blogger for Cook-Wissahickon Home and School Association, the Democratic committeewoman for the 21st Ward, and a public education activist for Parents United for Public Education.

Though she has many commitments, it’s her advocacy for fair, quality public education that takes center stage. When the District made severe cuts in 2011, Poyourow said she and other parents experienced a “wake-up call.”

“If you didn’t realize it before, you realize that your advocacy, support of the school, could not only be fundraising clubs, but it had to be lobbying for funding,” she said.

“It had to be activism at the city level, [and] looking at priorities, where the insufficient funds we had were spent.”

Poyourow said there was a moment “where all of the successively larger contexts became visible,” so she joined Parents United and with over 1,000 parents, many with students at Cook-Wissahickon, traveled to Harrisburg to lobby for funding.

Working with Parents United, Poyourow said she has been a part of many public education campaigns statewide. She said that getting the Notebook’s daily news roundup, “Notes from the news,” and reading other content on the website helps her stay informed.

“There is so much to do, there’s so much to pay attention to … but you can’t forget about the neighborhood school, because that’s the glue that holds people together, and that’s what makes it all worth it at the end of the day.”

Learn more about membership and​ join the Notebook!