Budget shortfalls a cause for concern to Philly students in crowded classrooms

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 Students protest outside Council Chambers with kid-sized cut outs to demonstrate overcrowded class sizes. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

Students protest outside Council Chambers with kid-sized cut outs to demonstrate overcrowded class sizes. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

Philadelphia City Council is winding down its budget process, with passage of a capital spending plan Thursday and expected endorsement of an operating budget next week. 

But some young city residents are not satisfied with the way lawmakers have distributed city resources. Illustrating their concern, public school students gathered outside the City Council chambers Thursday with life-size cutouts to dramatize how crowded their classrooms would be under the proposed city and school district budgets. Art teacher Kimberly Gavin said, with 37 or more in the class, she’s unsure of how to teach them properly.

“My classes are 45 minutes long, if I have 37 kids in a class, it’s maybe a minute or a minute two seconds for every child,” she said. “How is that going to work?”

Council President Darrell Clarke said he and his colleagues have done their part by dedicating $120 million  from a sales tax surcharge to the schools. But school district officials say it needs millions more just to have the same bare-bones staffing as this year.

There’s no more city money to contribute, Clarke said.

“They always want more, but there’s always a simple reality as it relates to revenue,” he said. “We want more, which is why we are asking our good friends in the General Assembly and the governor’s office to give us the authorization to enact a $2 a pack cigarette tax.”

 Lawmakers in Harrisburg have not taken any action on the proposed city cigarette tax.

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