Well over a hundred people gathered Sunday afternoon outside of the Trolley Car Diner on Germantown Avenue in Mt. Airy. They were there to protest the $600 million in statewide education cuts proposed by Governor Corbett.
The crowd was animated by children’s crayon renditions of their schools, signs with slogans such as “Sav are Skools,” “Shame on You, Governor!” and “Don’t Cut What Works!” and Parents chanting “save our schools” as the bevy gathered.
Compounded by the city budget cuts already affecting the Philadelphia public school system, these additional proposed cuts could come at the expense of 3,000 jobs, elimination of full-day kindergarten, cuts in some transportation services, and the slashing of arts, music and athletic programs.
Michael Masch, Chief Financial Officer for the School District of Philadelphia, was among the host of speakers on the day and fostered the lion’s share of the anger generated by the crowd of students, teachers, parents, and other interested parties. As he made his way to the front of the crowd, Barbara Weiss, whose daughter attends Central High School, shouted out “You’ve got to give us more reasons to stay in Philadelphia.”
Masch was sympathetic, saying that the proposed cuts were not a “spending problem,” but rather a “funding problem.” The difference in motive doesn’t change the outcome, and children in the public school system still face the loss of valuable school resources and programs.
Lisa Winder, a junior at Julia R. Masterman School, was particularly distraught over the potential cutting of arts programs. The 16-year-old is currently touring college campuses and hopes to study theater at the collegiate level some day. For her, having the option to take theater in high school is “a very big deal.”
While many PA government programs and institutions are facing budget cuts, one that has had reverse fortune is the prison system. Spending for PA prisons is up $13,580 from last year’s budget.
Leslie Winder, Lisa’s mother, was especially upset at the increase in funding for PA prisons and suggested lowering prison funding to close the budget gap in the commonwealth.
“The public school system is strapped at best,” Winder said, adding that cuts in funding would most likely hurt the kids who need it most.
Kevin Peter, parent of a public school student and president of the West Mt. Airy Neighbors and one of the protest’s organizers, was hoping the event would emphasize the need for “strong public schools.”
A citywide rally is planned for May 18 at 5pm at Dilworth Plaza.