This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
by Jeniffer Valdez
The People’s School Reform Commission, a small body convened for the day by Teacher Action Group with the support of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and a range of community organizations, led a rally Tuesday. Dozens of students, teachers, and parents gathered on the steps of the School District of Philadelphia on the last day of classes for students.
Participants protested the District’s budget cuts and the manner in which decisions have been made, which they said have left District schools mismanaged and underfunded.
The rally began with the introduction of the People’s SRC, which consisted of a student, a recently laid-off teacher, a parent, and a local minister. Members of the People’s SRC talked about issues of priorities, accountability, democracy, and community on the part of the District. Public testimony addressed the impact of the budget cuts.
JUNTOS activists from South Philadelphia spoke about cuts in teaching staffs and the impact of eliminating services for English language learners. They said that making such cuts would diminish the valuable cross-cultural experiences available through school diversity.
“We need these teachers” said one protester. “We don’t want our students to return in September to a substitute.”
The People’s SRC proposed a resolution that demanded more funding from the state that could be made available from the state’s surplus and halting the building of three new prisons, estimated to cost about $685 million. They also proposed to attain additional funding from City Council from new taxes.
Crystal Pulle, a 9th grader, said the District should have more community engagement, questioning how could the District “make decisions for the people, without the people.”