Students stage walk-out to demand more funding

Posted: June 13, 2014

DOZENS of Philadelphia students walked out of class yesterday and marched through Center City to demand more funding for public schools from city and state elected officials.

The demonstration began at the school district's headquarters at Broad and Spring Garden streets, with students from at least three schools joined by members of Action United, a statewide advocacy organization for the working class. The group of about 100 people marched to City Hall and ended the trek at Gov. Corbett's Philadelphia office at the Bellevue.

"We need money for our schools, and that's what we're fighting for," Calvin Wongus, a senior at Edison High School and a member of Youth United for Change, shouted outside the district's central office. "We're not backing down until we receive what we need because when we fight, we win."

District officials say they need an additional $216 million just to open schools next year in their current state - where many students lack basic supplies, full-time counselors and nurses - but need $440 million to restore some of the previous cuts and ramp up programs. Without the $216 million, the district said it will have to lay off more than 1,000 employees and significantly increase class sizes.

The students protesting, many of whom are seniors, said they are fighting to improve conditions for students in the future. They said schools are being "starved" of resources.

"I don't believe in cutting more staff, counselors and librarians," said Cierra Mallette, also a senior at Edison High in North Philadelphia. She said Edison does not have such supplies as copy paper or staples. "We have a counselor, but it's hard because he does everything else."

Xuan Nguyen, a senior at Kensington High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, said funding inequity robs students of a chance to compete with their peers.

"They expect us to do as good as the charter-school kids who get all the funding and the resources," she said.

School advocates have held several rallies over the past month to pressure lawmakers to boost funding. Six people were arrested Monday after staging a sit-in outside the Comcast Center during an event by Corbett and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

No one was arrested at yesterday's event.

On Twitter: @ChroniclesofSol

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