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Students: fund schools, not prisons

By Celeste Lavin on Mar 30, 2011 08:34 PM
Photo: Celeste Lavin

More than 1,500 elementary, secondary, and college students marched up Broad Street today protesting Governor Corbett’s massive cuts to education in his proposed budget.

The budget calls for cutting basic education by $550 million, or 10 percent, and making other education program cuts to bring the total to over $1.1 billion. It also slashes half of the funding for the sate system of higher education, including Temple and Lincoln.  

Of the many student protests in the last month, this was the first that united city public school students with those at the local public universities.

Students also highlighted another line in the budget that grants $650 million toward building three new prisons. They chanted, “Close down the jail house, open up the school house!”

“We’re here to tell Tom Corbett to think about children’s education instead of locking people up,” said 6th grader Jada Lewis, a student in the Bright Lights Initiative that serves elementary schools in North Philadelphia.    

“We need more money for schools and less for prisons because if we get more money for schools, there will be less people in prisons,” said her 5th grade friend Krystal Garcia.  

The Campaign for Nonviolent Schools, a youth-led coalition, organized the event. With them marched Youth United for Change; the Philadelphia Student Union; students from the Philadelphia public schools, Temple, Penn State, and Cheyney University; representatives from the Youth Health Empowerment Project; the NAACP; and many others.  

The march ended at District headquarters at 440 N. Broad St., where the official speakers for the event were drowned out by the massive crowd and car horns honking in support.  

Members of the Taxi Workers Alliance parked their taxis along the march route, decorated with signs saying “fund schools, not prisons.”  

One of the drivers, Mohammad Shukur, came from Bangladesh 12 years ago. There he had his MBA, but he could not afford to further his education in the U.S., he said. He now hopes the budget cuts won’t hurt his children’s chances at gaining a good education.  

Lilah Olsher graduated from Central High and is now in her first year at Temple. With Corbett’s budget cuts, schools will likely have to increase tuition. “I’m going to have $80,000 of debt,” she said. The cuts are “ridiculous.”   

To add salt to the wound, the federal budget also attacked education by slashing Pell Grants, affecting 313,000 students in Pennsylvania.  

Today, the city School District announced that it has a $629 million budget gap, largely due to these federal and state cuts. The average individual school budget in the District will be cut by $1 million, likely leading to increased class size and fewer nurses, teachers, and specialty staff.  

The crowd that shut down two lanes of Broad Street said the government needs to reprioritize. They shouted: “No education, no life.”

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Comments (8)

Submitted by savephillyschoolmusic (not verified) on March 30, 2011 10:24 pm

It's time to Stand Up and Speak Up for Instrumental Music in the Philly Public Schools!

Sign the petition to Keep Music in Philly Schools!

Submitted by Proud to Have Marched (not verified) on March 31, 2011 2:50 am

I was in attendance at this march today, and I have to say that it was the most powerful demonstration that I have seen in Philadelphia in years. The students from the Nonviolence Campaign were acting as true leaders for this city and state. I believe that these students can actually change this school district, and that is saying something.

Submitted by Tom Bishop (not verified) on March 31, 2011 6:45 am

You neglected to mention that Ackerman came out of the 440 to speak to the march. She said she was wondering where the protests were. Its to bad everyone remained silent and did not take the opportunity to protest her privatization of the public schools. Its time to stop being polite! Our futures are in jeopardy!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 31, 2011 8:29 am

It's too bad that she doesn't realize she's been a major reason Philly was so easy to cut. Her horrendous behavior has turned everyone off.

Submitted by Kendall Hayes (not verified) on March 31, 2011 7:44 am

This fight should have taken place last November at the voting polls. We could have sent Harrisburg a strong message by not allowing Corbett to get into office in the first place. Why are we surprised and outraged? It's not as if the handwriting wasn't on the wall. It's not as if he's not doing what he said he would do.

Philadelphians and Pennsylvanians can thank themselves for this. The time to rally was last year...before the election to get people to vote for the candidate who had our best interests at heart. But as usual here you go...a day late and a dollar short.

Submitted by Lynson Beaulieu (not verified) on March 31, 2011 5:35 pm

Please join these students on their march on education cuts. Let the next march have 15,000 people - children, youth, and adults, and the one that follows 150,000. Make sure Corbett gets the message that it is the school-to-prison pipeline that is being cut and prisons are no substitute for schools. Pennsylvania, its children, families and future deserve better leadership than what he is offering and a future that is built on a foundation of high quality public schools in every neighborhood.

Submitted by Krystal Garcia (not verified) on August 4, 2012 12:07 am

I was apart of this I am representing T.M. Pierce and the Bright Lights Program and the march was amazing lots of reporters and there were also alot more children that understood what it is like not to know if your school would be sold or not

Submitted by Billy j (not verified) on May 3, 2015 11:59 pm

Yeah, there are a lot of schools in the state which are lacking funds to grow or to improve. And at the same time, government is funding the prisons to make them modern and fully equipped. So, what exactly is our government’s first priority? I doubt it. EMR Software

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