Concerned parents, teachers speak about cuts

May 3, 2011 9:34:30 PM PDT
The auditorium at Meredith Elementary was almost filled to capacity with parents, teachers and others deeply concerned by the Philadelphia School District's proposed cuts to close a $629-million budget gap.

"I congratulate you on filling the auditorium, I think that threatening to cut full day kindergarten is a very effective way to get people out," parent Anne Gemmell said.

The district says it may need to cut kindergarten to a half day program leaving many parents to have to come up with money to pay for daycare in this tough economy.

"As a parent, I am very deeply concerned that the first things out on the table are things like full kindergarten, things like reduced class size," parent Helen Gym said.

"And I moved here for the specific purpose of going to Meredith because I hear it was an amazing school district and I feel robbed; I'm really, really upset," parent Alexandria Meer said.

School teacher Ken Derstine says he's concerned that the District's emphasis on charter schools could be creating a form of segregation, not by race but by class.

"What's going to be left are the poor and the working class poor in public schools and they're going to be more and more strapped and stretched and that seems to be where its headed," Derstine said.

Parent Gerald Wright is upset that the school district wants to renegotiate the Teachers Union contract to help close the budget gap.

"If you're going to open up the teacher's contract, you got to open up every single contract that the district has," Wright said.

And at least one parent seems to think School Superintendent Dr. Arlene Ackerman seems to be getting paid too much money during these tough economic times.

"Dr. Ackerman made $350,000 last year and got $65,000 in a bonus, I get mad. Leadership needs to come from the top," parent Sylvia LeBlanc said.

The District's Chief Financial Officer Michael Masch says the cuts may not have to be as bad since Governor Tom Corbett's staff announced yesterday that tax revenue is now a billion dollars higher than originally projected.

"And of course we hope that some of the cuts that are going to be rolled back are going to be cuts in public school funding because they were the deepest cuts the governor proposed," Masch said.

Overall, residents were being urged to make their voices heard and let their city and local government know whether they are on the right track with these cuts. From the sounds of it, most seem to think it's the wrong track.