Helen Gym Promises Education Efforts with Philadelphia City Council Win

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

Los Angeles wasn’t the only city this week to see a Korean American elected into a city council position. Philadelphia saw a number of upsets on Tuesday–one of them, Helen Gym, an education activist who rode a strong grassroots campaign, finished fifth in total votes among the Democratic candidates to secure one of five Democratic seats.

Gym was one of three newcomers to oust their respective incumbents. Real estate investor Alan Domb and attorney Derek Green took the other two spots, one of them taking the position vacated by Jim Kenney, who ran for mayor.

Out of a total of 17 council members, Gym will serve as one of seven elected at-large on the Philadelphia City Council; the other 10 are elected by district. Each member serves four-year terms, with no limit on how many terms they can serve.

“Our campaign was centered on a serious platform about demanding equity and justice in education,” Gym wrote to her supporters following her win on her Facebook page. “We defined the issues driving the election from Council races on up to the Mayoral race. Your passion, determination and perseverance inspired a city and redefined how to run a truly successful grassroots effort to improve public education and institutions in our city. Now we’re taking that message to City Hall.”

State cuts made education a contentious issue heading into the campaign. Gym was well-known for her community activism and criticism of Philadelphia’s school district funding and management, according to Philly.com. Gym also had the support from national teachers’ unions as she made education a priority.

“Education is the battleground on which we must stake our claim,” Gym said when she announced her candidacy back in February, “for it is the clearest expression of the choice before us, between a society, on one hand, that privileges the few and tolerates inequity and poverty, versus a vision of a beloved community that is far different.”

Gym told her supporters while she had called Philadelphia home for nearly 30 years, she grew up in Ohio, where there were public parks, a library and a rec center that gave her opportunities as a child to play and learn.

“Most importantly,” Gym added, “public schools, where I got a great education. That education formed me, like it formed so many of you. It unlocked the possibilities of the world. It was a social contract, and it influenced how I think about the possibilities, not just the limitations, of government throughout my life.”


Featured image via Helen Gym for City Council At Large’s Facebook page

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