Phila. students, supporters rally against school violence, state budget cuts

Nearly a thousand students and supporters marched Wednesday afternoon in Center City to protest violence in schools and proposed state budget cuts to education.

The group gathered at the Criminal Justice Center on Filbert Street, near the northeast corner of City Hall, and then at 4:25 proceeded north on Broad Street to the headquarters of the Philadelphia School District.

Superintendent Arlene C. Ackerman addressed the crowd from the front of the district building at 440 N. Broad St. She later met with some elementary school students who attended the rally.

"Let the governor know, let the legislators know, that we need money for our schools," Ackerman told the receptive students from Thomas M. Peirce School at 23d and Cambria Streets.

Robert Badie, 16, a 10th grader at Overbrook High School, likely would not have been as welcoming.

"We don't want Arlene Ackerman as superintendent," Badie said.

There were no disorderly incidents, said Capt. William Fisher, commander of the police Civil Affairs Unit.

"Everything was smooth," he said.

The reason the march started at the Criminal Justice Center was reflected in the signs that read "Fund Schools, Not Prisons."

Gov. Corbett has proposed deep cuts in education funding in the next state budget. At the same time, he wants increased funding for corrections.

The protesters also held up signs saying "We Want Nonviolent Schools."

Police blocked traffic on the east side of Broad to allow the marchers safe passage, and then briefly blocked southbound traffic in front of the School District building for protesters to cross the street for their rally.

"It was phenomenal," Helen Gym, founder of Parents United for Public Education, said of the march, organized by the student-led Campaign for Nonviolent Schools.

"It's powerful to see so many young people care about their education and do something about it," said Gym, who marched with the students.

Jessica Watts, 16, a freshman at Furness High School in South Philadelphia, said she was excited to be a part of the march.

"I was thinking, 'My opinion matters,' " she said.

Shaylyn Duncan, 19, a psychology major at Temple University, joined the march after getting an invitation on Facebook.

Temple also is facing cuts under Corbett's 2011-12 budget proposal.

"Some of my favorite teachers are in danger of losing their jobs," Duncan said.

The Philadelphia School District said Tuesday that it was facing a budget shortfall of $629 million.

 


Contact staff writer Robert Moran at 215-854-5983 or bmoran@phillynews.com.