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Children Talk Issues with Mayoral Candidates at Rendell Center Forum

Fourth- and fifth-grade Philadelphia students had the opportunity to talk with two mayoral candidates about how to improve the city and schools in a forum sponsored by the Rendell Center for Civics and Civic Education and the Annenberg Public Policy Center.

What was on the students’ minds? Gun control and playgrounds, safe parks and moldy classrooms, the need for art classes and gym.

The Rendell Center, which is based at the Annenberg Public Policy Center, asked students in the Philadelphia School District to write essays about their ideas, and then invited some of the students to present them to Democratic candidate Jim Kenney and Republican nominee Melissa Murray Bailey.

The students were welcomed to the forum at the Philadelphia School District Education Center by former Pennsylvania Governor and Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell, the co-founder and vice president of the Rendell Center, and the center’s executive director, Beth Specker.

Addressing the candidates, students in Elizabeth Pond’s fifth grade class at Julia de Burgos School suggested improving empty playgrounds by adding monkey bars and other recreational gear and replacing some of the concrete with plantings and landscaping. They suggested that the next mayor seek partnerships, asking sports teams like the Eagles and the Sixers to donate sports equipment and home-improvement stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s for bushes and benches.

Students in John Lawlor’s fifth grade class at Julia Ward Howe School talked about parks and playgrounds being dirty, trash-strewn and unsafe. Michael Trautner’s fourth-grade class at Isaac A. Sheppard School asked for music classes and phys-ed classes and art classes. Fourth-graders from Wesley Ewing’s class at Julia Ward Howe School said they did not feel safe, and talked about crime as an important issue.

In the spring, another forum hosted by the Rendell Center brought students from the school district together with the Democratic candidates for mayor.

News coverage of the forum included: