Sunday, July 13, 2014
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Student protest of Philly budget cuts outside district HQ

UPDATE, 6:30 p.m.

Student protest of Philly budget cuts outside district HQ

UPDATE, 6:30 p.m.

Waving signs, chanting, giving speeches, singing songs, hundreds of fed-up Philadelphia School District students gathered to protest budget cuts over several hours.

Frankford High junior Hector Gonzalez was clear.

“There are a lot of dropouts now,” Gonzalez said.  “Imagine what will happen if things are cut more.”

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Most students assembled at the district's North Broad Street headquarters after school.  Students from at least one school - Constitution High - left school early.

Spokesman Fernando Gallard said that district officials "appreciate the students' energy" and that a group of representatives had met with Superintendent William R. Hite Jr.

"We very much understand their concerns," Gallard said.  "The revenue we have is not sufficient to make the investment we would like in students."

Hite encouraged students to join the district in its call for additional city and state revenue, but only after school hours, Gallard said.

"We do not want students skipping school," said Gallard.

Whether the Constitution High students would be subject to any disciplinary action is up to the school's administration, Gallard said.

The protest was organized by students from the High School for the Creative and Peforming Arts.  Students from around the city - including Central, Girls High, Franklin Learning Center, Academy at Palumbo, Masterman, Shawmont and other schools - were represented.

Check tomorrow's Inquirer for more details.

EARLIER:

As of Tuesday afternoon, a student-led protest of the Philadelphia School District's planned budget cuts was underway.

At 1:30, about 350 students walked out of Constitution High School, a district magnet school on 7th Street in Center City, teachers there said.

The protest began brewing last week, when news of the proposed budget cuts - there could be no counselors, secretaries, other support staff, sports or other extracurriculars, etc. - reached students at schools throughout the city. Some began organizing, including students at the High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, Constitution High and Masterman.

Miranda Thompson, an art and technology teacher at Constitution High, said that school's students had originally planned to walk out on Thursday, but that's the same day as Advanced Placement testing.  When they realized today is National Teacher Appreciation Day, they decided today was the right day, Thompson said.

"They went from class to class and talked to students," Thompson said of Constitution High student government leaders.  "Some kids were worried and said, 'Are we going to be arrested for this?' But they said, 'This is Constitution High, you have the right to peaceably assemble.'"

Thompson said she told her students they might be penalized for their actions.  They said they were willing to risk penalties.

"It's hard for us as teachers to walk that line between supporting the students and encouraging them to do something that might get them in trouble," Thompson said."We appreciate that they are doing this in solidarity, to stand up for public education."

Hundreds of students from schools around the city are expected to converge outside district headquarters at 440 N. Broad after 4 p.m.

Sophie Kohler, a freshman at CAPA, said that students there would leave school after dismissal to walk up Broad Street and join the protest.

When students heard about the budget cuts, "it gave us goose bumps," Kohler said.  "This is a special school, and it wouldn't be the same next year."

Kohler stressed that the protest was citywide, student-led, and peaceful. 

This is a developing story; please check back for updates.

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About this blog

Inquirer reporter Kristen Graham writes the Philly School Files blog, where she covers education in Philadelphia, both in and out of the classroom.

During the school year, you’ll frequently find her hosting live chats about the district on Philly.com.

Please do pass along the scoop about what’s going on at your Philadelphia public school; Kristen welcomes tips, story ideas and witty banter.


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