Student voices

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Address gun control

Greetings, this is Ana Zhou, a student at Masterman who is currently researching significant issues addressed by my district representative, Ed Neilson. A prevalent topic that he’s addressed is education. Over the years, he’s taken direct action to secure essential financial resources in order to improve the quality of school life. This includes fighting for state grants, sponsoring multiple education acts and championing the Dyslexia and Early Literacy Intervention Pilot Program, which aids academically disadvantaged students. Although he’s already made a significant effort to improve the quality of education in schools, I hope that he will continue with his contributions. Additionally, I hope that he can go a step further and not only provide the resources that schools require, but establish a critical detailed plan to fully utilize these assets. Hopefully, Neilson can successfully convey his vision on how the resources he provides should be employed. On a different note, he’s also addressed the issue of gun control. As a member of the PA Safe Caucus, Ed’s constantly expressed his support of gun violence prevention and sponsored numerous acts limiting the use of guns. However, he’s only expressed his opinion on this topic and has yet to take effective action opposing this topic. In his next term, I hope that he can implement active plans or acts to address the issues of gun control. Thank you for your cooperation and hard work.

Ana Zhou

Masterman High School

Solomon strong on education, guns

I’m a high school senior attending Julia R. Masterman School right now, and I’m writing this to express my views and thoughts on my district representative, Jared Solomon. I actually live just a few blocks down from his office. After researching and learning about his stance on different issues, I’m glad that my district representative shares many of the same values I have. 

One of the main issues that I worry about is education. I’ve learned that he works on the education committee and has dedicated much of his time and effort in office to help improve education in the area. He has helped fund grants and donations to improve school safety and has recently sponsored a bill that would help students with disabilities, by introducing a disability inclusiveness curriculum. I’m happy to know that I can support my representative’s decisions, as I know that schools in Philadelphia are underfunded and can be much improved.

I’ve read that he was involved in the decision to increase funding for the Gun Violence Task Force by $2.5 million, in order to reduce gun violence and illegal firearms in Philadelphia. This is really important to me, as I’ve had friends and family who have suffered due to gun violence, and I appreciate seeing attempts to combat the issue.

Seeing that Solomon cares about the community and the economy is great. He has helped relieve pressure on small business owners during the COVID-19 crisis and has also partnered with restaurants in the area to provide free meals to the homeless and needy. 

I really appreciate the things he does for the community, and I’m happy to know that he’ll continue to be our representative, as he is running uncontested this year. Seeing how involved he is makes me confident that the community will improve in many ways, such as having more job opportunities in the area, and the area becoming safer.

Kevin Guan

Julia R. Masterman High School

Education reform needed

As a part of a project for school, I had to research my state representative and since I live in the 174th district, Ed Neilson was the subject figure for my project. Through this project, I had the opportunity to not only get to learn more about Mr. Neilson, but about what his stances are and what he has done with regard to issues that matter to me.

Education reform is an issue that I believe is very important, especially when it comes to thinking about the future of children and how they will impact our society. While researching, I found that Mr. Neilson has been involved in bringing forth various programs relating to education reform and that he sponsored for the funding of higher education in public schools in order to make changes. Even though these programs (such as the Dyslexia Screening and Early Literacy Intervention Pilot Program) and funding initiatives (including the Public Higher Education Funding Commission) are effective steps toward complete education reform, I would like to see him more involved in the reform of education, something so crucial to young minds. I feel as though more can be done.

Many schools (most especially public schools) in Philadelphia are still in need of improvements to ensure that all children alike have access to quality education. In the time to come, one thing I hope to see is an effort (perhaps addressed in legislation) to redesign curriculum and what is taught at schools. Content being taught in classrooms today is not keeping up with the pace in which the world is progressing. I would like to see curriculum encouraging students to think more and for students to be able to implement passions or strengths that are individual to them. One way I can see this occurring is by not prioritizing standardized testing as much as it is prioritized and by taking advantage of resources that we have (such as technology) to provide better learning opportunities for all students. Additionally, I hope to hear more about what Mr. Neilson believes is possible with regard to education reform in the future, especially going forward with many schools getting used to new learning situations alongside the COVID-19 pandemic.

I believe that Rep. Neilson has good intentions of moving forward with education reform and hope to be able to see more of not only his stance about this issue but his action toward it as well. Thank you very much for your time.

Mariel Sajan

Julia R. Masterman High School

Solid work by Solomon

I would like to recognize state Rep. Jared Solomon’s continuous work for my and my neighborhood’s community. He has addressed many of the issues that I am personally concerned with, and though my views are not completely parallel to his, I greatly appreciate what he has done and is still doing for the city.

With the issue of poverty, it is relieving that Solomon has not overlooked the fact that employment racism (due to criminal records) has also been a factor, and that he had cosponsored a bill addressing this in 2017. I also admire that he uses community effort to improve this issue, such as his 2019 plan to turn abandoned areas into recreational buildings, which will increase the job opportunities. I do agree with Solomon’s belief that policy will not resolve poverty; however, I also believe that it is still worth approaching, along with the direct sources of the issue.

Pollution is another issue that is very important to me, as it is unfortunately very noticeable, whether I am walking around my neighborhood in the Northeast or going to school in Center City. I noticed that within the last year, Jared Solomon had addressed it by working with other lawmakers to create a package of bills, one of which he, along with Rep. Brian Sims, proposed that for every non-reusable plastic bag used, there will be a fee of two cents that goes toward support for recycling. While this may be effective in preventing the uses of plastic bags, I hope that he will be doing more to confront the other areas of pollution, such as what it is doing to the air, bodies of water, and to the other living creatures.

The misuse of guns is also an issue that has been affecting America in past decade, and I, along with my community, am grateful to know that Solomon is taking action against it, such as his sponsoring a bill that protects domestic violence survivors from gun violence and his support in favor of giving the attorney general more authority over gun-trafficking. Even still, this issue is continuously increasing in Philadelphia, so I hope he will continuously do more for the protection of citizens, whether through policy or community effort.

As a citizen, all of these issues concern me, as they can negatively affect the city I grew up in, and I am grateful for Jared Solomon’s work and effort to improve it. His methods of gathering community members together to solve a problem is a commendable idea, but I also hope that he will continue to work on policies. I hope that he will consider these concerns thoughtfully. 

Emily Lang

Masterman High School

Good job in the 174th

Ed Neilson was elected to be the state representative for the 174th District on Aug. 11, 2015. In those five years since his election, Neilson has voted for and sponsored many important pieces of legislation in a variety of different areas. Two areas that are of utmost importance are education and gun control. 

Regarding education, Ed Neilson has made tremendous progress in improving our school systems and developing new programs to support students. Ed Neilson helped to develop legislation that provided for the development of the Dyslexia and Early Literacy Intervention Pilot Program, showing he is willing to support students who may need extra assistance in developing their reading skills. Additionally, during the coronavirus epidemic, Neilson, along with state Rep. Rob Matzie, has pushed for the suspension of data caps and overage fees for internet service. Neilson’s support for the suspension of overage fees shows that students’ education is more important than the finances in a time when many people are losing sources of income. Furthermore, Neilson has proven that he cares for the safety of students as well, as he has supported allocating money for asbestos abatement in schools, which has been a common issue in many School District of Philadelphia schools. Additionally, he voted in support of House Bill 1448, which requires lead testing in school water systems. Ed Neilson has proven time and time again that education and the safety of students is a priority for him and his community.

Although Neilson has made great improvements in our education system, an area where he could develop a bit more legislation is regarding gun control. Ed Neilson voted against authorizing schools to arm security guards in what is now Senate Bill 621, which shows that he believes that children should not be at risk of gun violence. Additionally, Neilson sponsored House Resolution 662, which designated the week of Feb. 1-8, 2020 as “Gun Violence Survivors Week,” and recognized the work of organizations such as Moms Demand Action for their efforts to prevent gun violence, but the resolution has yet to be passed. Neilson has made some progress regarding gun control, but I would like Neilson to tackle this issue clearly and sponsor more bills that show he truly sympathizes about the victims of gun violence and is willing to actively prevent gun crime.

Overall, Ed Neilson has done a strong job at passing legislation that allows for growth in our district. Neilson is willing to take the safety and wellbeing of his community into account when making decisions, and is willing to make decisions that benefit large groups of people. There are some areas in which he could develop a stronger stance, such as gun control, but he has made great progress for the 174th District so far.

Robert Petrella

Masterman High School

Keep bettering our community

I am a student at Julia R. Masterman and live in the 174th district under Rep. Ed Neilson. After being tasked with researching Ed Neilson and his policies, with a specific look on issues important to me, I can say that Edward Neilson is a good representative of the 174th district and is working toward bettering our community. The only confusion I encountered was a lack of clarity in some of the stances that Neilson took. Rep. Neilson prioritizes legislation for issues such as job creation, public safety and education. In all of those issues Neilson has clear stances, wanting to increase more jobs and improve public safety and education. While all of those are clear stances for issues that impact the local community, his stances become a bit unclear when looking at other issues like abortion and immigration.

In terms of education, Ed Neilson truly prioritizes the health, safety and education of students in the Northeast. He created legislation establishing the Dyslexia and Early Literacy Intervention pilot program, and received state grants to improve the safety and infrastructure of our schools, one recent example being a $2.8 million grant in June of this year to cut down on energy and water consumption in Rhawnhurst and Anne Frank elementary schools. On top of grants, Neilson has voted for mandatory testing of lead levels in schools drinking water, showing that he seeks to improve children’s safety and their learning environment.

With clear stances on local issues, and a clear agenda to improve upon them, Neilson has worked for the community, but when researching broader topics, I had to deduce Neilson’s stances on issues by looking at previous votes, as there were no statements I could find made by him concerning these issues. On issues such as abortion, I made the assumption that he is pro-choice based on Neilson’s past votes, such as that of House Bill 818 where in 2013, Neilson voted nay to prohibiting abortion coverage in health insurance exchages, as well as in Senate Bill 3 where he voted nay to prohibiting dilation and extraction abortions before 20 weeks of pregnancy, and prohibiting any type of abortion after 20 weeks.

There is the unclear topic of immigration. I was left to deduce Rep. Neilson’s stance on this issue based on past votes and policies, though this became even more unclear. In 2018 Neilson voted in favor of House Bill 28, which would force Philadelphia’s authorities to cooperate with federal immigration officials, effectively punishing sanctuary cities. In January 2019 Neilson alongside other Philadelphia representatives unveiled the Philadelphia Platform, a plan of policies aimed at reducing poverty in Philadelphia. In this document, one of the goals was to have immigrants fully participating in the workforce and contributing to the economy as well as making an effort to improve their literacy rates. Despite this, just four months later, Neilson voted to expand the use of federal work status checks in construction areas, which would negatively impact undocumented immigrants in those areas. Because of these mixed votes, it’s hard to determine whether Neilson sees immigration as a negative or a positive. Though I personally disagree with his votes, and am happy with the Philadelphia Platform overall, I still cannot clearly determine Neilson’s stance on this issue.

In the Northeast, Neilson has done a lot to serve his district and has brought positive change to the community. In the coming years I hope to see even more improvements to issues that he’s already tackling, and continued communication between Neilson and the voters of the 174th district to better communicate goals, issues and concerns. Overall, Rep. Neilson has done his part to better our community and I will happily be following his progress for the next couple of years.

Anna Thanasi

Masterman High School

Mostly agrees with her rep

Hi, I’m a senior at JR Masterman High School. I’m writing to you to express my concerns as somebody who lives in the 173rd district, represented by Michael Driscoll. I’m very pleased with my representative’s concern with education among the youth. As a student who is progressing into college soon, I’m happy to see that he’s contributed to the passing and sponsoring of multiple bills helping students with money for school. I’m also grateful for the concern expressed toward mental health of kids at school; that is definitely an issue that is often overlooked. It’s great that he’s a sponsor for sexual abusers surrendering their firearms, and voting no to a bill that allows school security guards to be armed; this adds to the rise of gun control. However, I am concerned about the bills that prohibit women from getting abortions based off of the diagnosis of Down Syndrome. Regardless of whether we think that this is a moral decision, it’s ultimately up to the mother to decide whether or not she wants to have an abortion. Every situation is different. I am hoping that Mr. Driscoll will consider the opposing side on this issue.

Sarah Frakes 

Masterman High School