When second grader Vilnis Chakars heard about Governor Tom Corbett’s proposed budget cuts this spring, he became worried about his school. So, he decided to try and do something about it.
Like many parents and teachers from Cook-Wissahickon Elementary, he attended rallies and wrote letters. His letters to government officials brought no response except from one politician, the governor himself.
The seven-year-old’s thrill, however, quickly turned to dismay.
“I didn’t make a difference,” said Chakars. “He still wants to make the cuts.”
Following is the correspondence between Chakars and the governor. You can also see the hand-written note in the photo gallery above.
It is included in the NewsWorks essay section as an example of one boy’s thinking about an experience of one of the most pressing issues facing our neighborhood and city.
While the severity of cuts to education in Philadelphia has been tempered at the state and city level in some places or by degree, the issue remains critical and controversial.
I thought PA would be a nice place to live but now it’s a nightmare! I hate that you are taking away my Spanish class. I heard this and I cried for a long time. But I hope that I get my second favorite prep twice a week. I really like music.
I don’t want more than thirty kids in my class.
Vilnis Chakars, age 7
Corbett’s letter back to Chakars:
Thank you for your letter expressing concern over my recent budget proposal. I am amazed that you maintain such a keen interest in the budget process at the youthful age of seven.
My goal as Governor of Pennsylvania is to provide students like you – who represent the future leaders of our great Commonwealth – with every opportunity to obtain a first-rate education. I am confident the budget I proposed will put Pennsylvania on the right track while acknowledging the $4.16 billion deficit confronting the Commonwealth next year.
However, please know that I have not proposed the elimination of language programs as you suggest in your letter; in fact, I have preserved funding for foreign language assistance at the same level as last year. Any potential consolidations in programs or classes would be determined by the School District of Philadelphia, and not the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Since you posess an extraordinary interest in the affairs of state government, I have enclosed educational materials regarding the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. These booklets will provide you with a brief history of Pennsylvania, as well as information regarding the legislative process. It is my hope this will nurture your curiosity and enhance your understanding of our system of government.
Please accept my best wishes as you complete the current school year.