Philadelphia Teachers, Students Protest ‘Doomsday’ Budget Cuts

By Jaclyn Zubrzycki — May 17, 2013 2 min read
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Staff and students in Philadelphia are protesting a Draconian budget proposal that would leave many schools without arts or music, without secretaries or aides, and without libraries in the 2013-14 school year. Dozens of teachers gathered near a high school this morning to protest, according to NBC Philadelphia, and students in the 138,000-student district are planning a walkout for later today.

More than 1,000 students were expected to walk out of school at noon, said Beth Patel, a spokeswoman for the Philadelphia Student Union. Students plan to meet at the school district and walk to City Hall, where Philadelphia’s city council is hearing testimony on the impact of the proposed budget cuts, she said.

The student union supports but did not plan the walkout, Ms. Patel said. Students coordinated the event over social media and via word of mouth.

The city’s schools are bracing for the “catastrophic” budget laid out by Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. last month. The district is also planning to close more than 20 schools.

Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter has proposed a tax increase on liquor and cigarettes in order to raise money for public schools, including charters, in the city, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. The district is also hoping for more state funding to help close its $304 million budget gap.

Students in the district staged a different walkout earlier this month. NBC Philadelphia profiled a few of those student activists.

In other notable news from Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Public School Notebook reports that more than 50 of the district’s 218 schools will have new principals this year, due to a combination of hirings, firings, retirements, and charter conversions.

Philadelphia is not the only city that’s seen large student and teacher protests this year. In Chicago, students refused to take state tests in April in order to protest massive school closings. Last month, in Newark, students walked out of school to protest proposed budget cuts there. And earlier this month in Raleigh, students protested state funding proposals for public schools in North Carolina.

In Philadelphia, NBC is reporting that more than 2,000 students showed up to protest the budget. The Philadelphia Public School Notebook has a Storify about the protests.

Meanwhile, in Dallas, students at Madison High are protesting a new principal evaluation system that could lead to as many as 50 new principals in the district—and the layoffs of some much-loved school leaders, the Dallas News reports. My colleague Alyssa Morones reported on some of the pushback on the superintendent’s plan earlier this week.

A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.