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Community members in Lancaster demand council members make poverty a priority

LANCASTER, Pa. — Concerned community members in Lancaster County are demanding that city officials make fighting poverty in the city a main priority. Acco...

LANCASTER, Pa. -- Concerned community members in Lancaster County are demanding that city officials make fighting poverty in the city a main priority.

According to the last standardized test scores released by the state there is a gap between Lancaster County’s high and low performing schools.

La Academia Partnership Charter School in Lancaster is one of the schools with higher poverty rates, falling below performance standards.

"While I completely agree that La Academia has had a history of lack of success, we must acknowledge the disparity that exists in our educational funding and resources. Schools in high poverty and urban settings face inconsistencies and insecurities, as they are often underperforming. We must rally together as a community to eradicate the inequity found in urban poverty and uplift schools like La Academia that is changing the trajectory for the lives of our kids, families and the greater community. Upon beginning this role in May 2019, I am committed to fostering an academic environment of high expectations regardless of circumstance," Tommy Henley, Principal & Chief Executive Officer at La Academia Partnership Charter School.

"Unequal wealth distribution should no longer be a barrier to the right students have at an equitable education. We have developed a comprehensive teacher coaching model to eliminate failure at the sources, provided 1:1 technology, project-based learning, revamped standards-aligned common core curriculum and infused professional development into our weekly schedule. We are confident that these changes will support our success in the future. That has been exemplified by our standing 95% attendance rate (18-29 SY 65%) and our projected academic growth of 17% - 23% in ELA and Math."

FOX43 also reached out to the School District of Lancaster and Columbia Borough, however we did not hear back.

"We want to rally the community and the city administration to also work together with the county, the government to really start to address poverty in our community," said Tammy Rojas, Lancaster Healthcare Rights Committee, Put People First!PA.

“When we have families and children who are homeless and can’t eat it’s really kind of hard to focus on your schooling," she added.

According to a recent American Community Survey, Lancaster has a poverty rate of 26.5% which is nearly double the national average.

“I don’t believe the conversation about poverty is hardly spoken about at all," said Rojas. “When it is spoken about, it becomes this false narrative and that’s kind of something that needs to change," she added.

Activists are demanding city council members hold a public meeting solely focused on poverty in Lancaster.

They say the goal is to see fundamental and systemic changes by 2020.