With trumpets and speeches, a drum line and song, students, teachers, politicians and others rallied Monday for education funding in advance of an important Pennsylvania Supreme Court hearing on the matter.
The high court will hear arguments Tuesday in a lawsuit charging that the state has abdicated its responsibility to adequately fund school districts across the commonwealth.
Parents, including two from Philadelphia, and districts including the William Penn system in Delaware County sued the state in 2014. Also joining the lawsuit were the Pennsylvania NAACP and other organizations.
They said that Pennsylvania had "adopted an irrational school funding system that does not deliver the essential resources students need and discriminates against children based on where they live and the wealth of their communities."
On Monday, a crowd of education advocates gathered on Dilworth Plaza to declare their firm support for the suit with musical performances and impassioned testimony. The Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case inside City Hall on Tuesday.
Jameira Miller, a senior at Penn Wood High School whose parents are plaintiffs in the lawsuit, addressed the crowd and introduced her school's marching band.
She's tired of overcrowding and poor facilities, said Miller, 17, of her school in Lansdowne.
"I want to be able to have a seat in my physics class," she added. "I hope that they really hear us today, and this makes a difference tomorrow."
Miller said it stung that schools in towns just miles from hers had things she can only dream of.
"Equal funding," she said, "is essential."
Councilwoman Helen Gym, a longtime public education advocate who helped organize the rally, said that the students' testimony was moving, but that the court's job was clear-cut.
"It is not a matter of opinion or feeling - it is a constitutional issue that affects the entire community," Gym said.
Gov. Wolf campaigned on a platform of more funds for Pennsylvania schools but does not support the lawsuit.
The governor's support is one thing, but the state legislature has long stood in the way of equal funding for all districts, Gym said.
"Good intentions are not going to solve this issue," she said. "We need a court directive to make this happen."
Much is riding on what will happen Tuesday in court, said State Rep. James Roebuck (D., Phila.).
"There is nothing more important that we do than what we do for our children," Roebuck said, before an a capella choir of sisters from the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority sang "Let There Be Peace On Earth."
Jerry Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, said he would be at the Tuesday hearing.
"All children deserve a high-quality education," Jordan said. "It is time for this court to hear the case and make it right."